The steady drizzle of rain did not dampen the spirit of those present at the Walk of Honor in front of the Highlands Police Department on Monday morning. Veterans, family members, and friends honored all who have served, currently serve, or died in service of the United States military.
Veterans Day is Nov. 11 and is traditionally remembered on the eleventh day of the eleventh month at the eleventh hour, but in Highlands it was observed on Nov. 12 because of other events scheduled in town on Sunday, said Commander of the Highlands American Legion Post 370, Ed McCloskey.
This year is the centennial celebration of the American Legion, who with the Highlands Police Department, organized the ceremony to dedicate new bricks engraved with the names of veterans set in the Walk of Honor walkway leading to the flagpoles in front of the police department.
The Walk is paved with 1,000 bricks and twice a year newly engraved bricks are set into the walkway. The latest 75 bricks were acknowledged Monday.
Legion Vice Commander Bill Reese stressed the sacrifices made by all who have served to protect this country.
“We are free Americans because of the military and this is a great way to honor them,” he said. “When people go by the walkway, they will see the names of the people who have served.”
The new bricks were dedicated by McCloskey, Reese and Legion member Bill Edwards who read off the names of those honored this year.
Town of Highlands Mayor Pat Taylor spoke and thanked all veterans for their service and held a blank check to illustrate his point that “Americans sign a blank check when they join the service, and some of them pay a terribly big price.”
Edwards, formally active in the U.S. Coast Guard but who does not consider himself retired from service was glad to see so many turn out despite the weather.
“It’s an important day and it’s important that we recognize those who have served the country in both war and peace time,” he said. “Those who are deceased, those currently serving, and those who will serve in the future, they make it possible for us to sleep at night.”
McCloskey asked the public to pray and support veterans each day, not just on Veterans Day.
“Twenty-two veterans are killing themselves every day,” said McCloskey. “These service people need to be conditioned before deployment and when they come back they need help to transition into civilian life.”
He added that treatment for veterans in the area has improved and that Macon County has some of the best veteran treatment facilities in the country and specifically mentioned Macon County Veterans Services Director, Leigh Tabor.
McCloskey contracted bladder cancer because of the Camp Lejeune water contamination issue and has recently started receiving disability compensation for his time spent at the base.
“The care in this area is great, but veterans coming back from duty suffering from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) need our help all over the country,” said McCloskey. “Call your legislators and urge better care for our veterans.”
Edwards assisted with reading the 75 names of those honored with bricks and said that veterans are always in need of employment, especially after returning from the service, and something needs to be done about the suicide rates of veterans.
“We’re here in recognition of these men and women who have served,” said Edwards. “A lot of them need jobs, and for those in trouble, we need to ID them and support them. I am so grateful to all of those people who protect us.”
Macon County Veterans Services is located at 104 East Main Street in Franklin, N.C. For more information call 828-349-2151.
Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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