ELIZABETHTON — After successfully leading the effort to build a memorial to every Carter County veteran killed in action since World War I and another monument to every county veteran who served in the armed forces, the Elizabethton/Carter County War Memorial Committee has called its mission complete and has turned over the guardianship of the downtown monuments to a new organization.
On Thursday, Deacon Bowers, chairman of the Elizabethton/Carter County War Memorial Committee, symbolically passed the torch to a new oversight committee that will be responsible for the perpetual maintenance of both the Veterans War Memorial and the Veterans Walk of Honor.
In addition, the new committee will be able to add new names to the walk of honor as more Carter Countians serve in the military. The requirement to be listed on the wall is to have an honorable discharge from the military and a $100 payment for the granite brick.
The War Memorial Committee also turned over the funds it has established for repairs and upkeep and a fund to purchase bricks for needy veterans who cannot afford the $100 payment.
Membership in the new committee includes: Chairman Bill Carter, a city councilman; Vice Chairman Mike Barnett, owner of Big John’s Closeouts; Secretary-treasurer Jerome Kitchens, finance director for the city of Elizabethton; and members Rick Walters representing the Downtown Business Association and Sgt. John Ferguson of the Tennessee National Guard.
The new committee will also approve public events held at the site, such as Veterans Day observances.
“The War Memorial Committee has done such a great job,” Mayor Curt Alexander said. The committee began working on the project in 2000.
“It is the only one like it in the nation,” Bowers said. “We have become a model for other surrounding counties. We have shown them how it was done and who can help them.”
It was a bittersweet moment for Bowers, who chaired the committee that included Vice Chairman Roy Merman, Secretary-Treasurer David Ornduff, Ralph Cole, Jeanette Hitchcock, Sara Sellers, state Sen. Rusty Crowe, Bob Robinson and Mayor Pro Tem Sam Shipley.
“On behalf of the outgoing members of the Elizabethton/Carter County Veterans War Memorial Committee, thank you for the privilege of preserving the legacy of Carter County veterans with these two projects. May the eternal flame at the Veterans War Memorial forever serve as a beacon of light and a reminder of the ultimate sacrifice made by Carter County veterans in the name of freedom,” Bowers said.