Veterans Day is a time for mindfulness and taking the time to show gratitude to all who served our country in the armed forces during war and peace.

By doing this, we also remind ourselves and others of what veterans represent – honor, courage, sacrifice and diligence in protecting our nation’s freedom.

Ward Eller of the Mount Pleasant community referenced the importance of visual and other reminders of the service of veterans when he spoke during the Veterans Brick Walk Dedication on the Wilkes Heritage Museum front lawn Saturday.

As a decorated combat veteran of the Korean War, seen by some as a conflict that hasn’t gotten enough attention, Eller knows well the importance of honoring the men and women who served in our armed forces.

Like many others, Eller continued his service through active membership in a military veterans’ organization.

He has been post commander and held other leadership positions in Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1142 in North Wilkesboro. It’s notable that VFW Post 1142 and its Ladies Auxiliary host the state’s only annual Gold Star banquet, where military personnel from Wilkes County who died in the nation’s wars and their families are honored.

Eller is especially proud of the role he and Post 1142 played nearly 20 years ago in securing state legislation awarding high school diplomas to 14 men from Wilkes who enlisted in the military while in high school during World War II, so never graduated.

One of Eller’s greatest contributions was helping to organize the VFW Post 1142 Honor Guard, which gives solace to families and pays appropriate tribute by providing military honors at funerals of veterans. Since its creation in April 1997, the VFW Post 1142 Honor Guard has provided this volunteer service at over 1,400 funerals.

Eller spoke for the dedication of the latest additions to the Veterans Brick Walk, consisting of over 1,700 bricks inscribed with names and other information about veterans. It surrounds a tall obelisk with names of military personnel from Wilkes who died in World War I and other wars since then.

The Brick Walk and especially the names on the monument it surrounds are stirring reminders of the costs of freedom – and of the importance of showing our gratitude to those who paid for it through military service.

They also remind us of the need to fend off apathy and recognize threats to our nation’s democracy from forces both within and outside.

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