Just the Facts

Memorial Day stirs action for and among veterans

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Dan Finnerty

Out of the turmoil of the Civil War years came a day to pause and reflect on individuals lost, primarily in battle. Memorial Day, a federal holiday held the last Monday in May, is the nation’s foremost annual day to mourn and honor its deceased service men and women. On May 5, 1868, the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), a politically powerful organization of Union veterans led by Major General John A. Logan — issued General Orders No. 11 or the “Memorial Day Act.” This issuance formally established Memorial Day as a Decoration Day on which the nation would remember its war dead and decorate their graves with flowers.

With Memorial Day upcoming, observed this year on May 27, some veteran-focused developments are happening in Macon County. 

828Vets raise funds for well

“We raised the money we need. The well is in. Hedden [Brothers Well Drilling] was great, the businesses that hosted [fundraising events] were great; our members and the community were very supportive,” said Starlett Henderson, a member of 828Vets.

Local veteran Doug Adams was the recipient of the undertaking, which was initiated by 828Vets’ Director, Craig “Mac” McManus and executed by Hedden Brothers. Adams reached out for help after realizing the nearly 70-year-old well on his property had run dry. With his granddaughter’s help, he contacted Barbara Idarosa, who runs a Christian academy for children in Florida. Idarosa then sent out 300 letters asking for help, including one to First Presbyterian Church in Franklin, where McManus is a member. After checking with Adams, McManus said, “We’ve got you.”

828Vets then went to work setting up six fundraising opportunities in Franklin involving Chick-fil-A, Mixers, Graff’s Tavern, Slanted Window, and Lazy Hiker and Currahee Brewing Companies. A live raffle at Currahee, at which 11 local establishments provided items to be auctioned off, raised $19,500 in six weeks.

Hedden Brothers accomplished the work in a very short timeframe. The well-drilling project ended up being deeper and more involved than anticipated. Yet, McManus relayed that Chris Hedden stated, “We want to do our part.” 

ONE OF Kenneth Elkins veteran-themed woodworking projects included a tank. Bartram Academy teacher and veteran Nestor Montanez assisted with the project, and Montanez’s children, Justyn and Joseph, were able to play on the tank when it was completed.

Because of the charitable nature of the situation in support of a veteran, his company made up the difference in cost. Even the Macon County Environmental Health Services accelerated the normal four-to-six-week timeframe for permitting down to a week, which was another factor for which Adams was grateful. 

“I don’t have to go up the hill to my brother’s house to take a shower or refill water jugs,” Adams expressed.

Looking at how the whole process started, Adams remembered, “About three months ago I was driving. I have a habit of talking to God every morning when I’m driving. I said, ‘Lord what am I here for, what do you want me to do?’ A warm, fuzzy feeling came over me and I heard Him say, ‘family.’”

Today, Adams is a part of the quickly growing 828Vets family. 

“It’s amazing how this all happened,” he said. “The Lord works in mysterious ways.”

Local vet honors fellow veterans

Kenneth Elkins, originally from Mansfield, Ohio, is one local resident who provides veteran service reminders throughout the year at his military museum. 

Elkins, a woodworker/craftsman who served in the U.S. Army from 1982–1987, has produced numerous works, such as a wooden “flag” comprised of kneeling and saluting soldiers, and guns replacing the stars and stripes.

He also built Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and Arlington National Cemetery replicas, both of which can be seen on his property at the junction of Addington Bridge Road and Georgia Road south of Franklin.

VETERAN KENNETH Elkins created this wooden flag with soldiers and guns making up the stars and stripes.

His latest project, just in time for this year’s Memorial Day, is a 4-foot wide by 5-foot tall wooden army tank replica that sits on wheels covered with a rubber track. He wants to eventually design a means of propelling “shells” a short distance, complete with smoke and sound in order to more realistically represent an actual military tank.

Nearby Bartram Academy students recently helped Elkins clear some wood and clean up his property, after which he threw them a pizza party last week at the school. 

“They carried the very heavy tomb replica out of the shop. They’ve been awesome.” 

Elkins started his open-to-the-public, by-appointment museum seven years ago in his house, before moving down the hill to his shop where work continues on an increasingly larger scale.

“My [8-foot by 8-foot] Arlington National Cemetery replica has 400 flags that represent the 400,000 soldiers buried there. Nestor will also be placing a wreath that I designed at the Tomb on Memorial Day.” Bartram Academy teacher Nestor Montanez helped Elkins design the Arlington replica.

Anyone wanting to learn more, see the museum or help out with Elkins’ veterans-focused projects can contact him at [email protected] or (419) 631-0906.

Seventh Rev It Up for Vets

The seventh annual “Rev It Up for Vets” event was held May 11 at Countryside Chevrolet in Franklin. According to Countryside’s Mystique Woolsey, “[We] had 20 fewer cars registered this year and still raised $3,000, which is being divided up between four veterans’ groups.”

Participating veterans’ organizations included 828Vets, American Legion Post 108, VFW Post 7339, and Vietnam Veterans of America, Western North Carolina, Chapter 994. 

COUNTRYSIDE CHEVROLET’S Rev It Up for Vets raised $3,000 for area veterans organizations at its annual car show.

Memorial Day Ceremony

A Memorial Day Ceremony will be held on Monday, May 27, from 11 a.m. to noon at the Macon County Veterans Memorial, located at 1288 Georgia Road in Franklin. The ceremony will honor military men and women who lost their lives in service to our country. After the ceremony, American Legion Post 108 will be serving a light lunch at 12:30 p.m. The public is welcome.