By: Terry Harris | Email: Click Here
Posted: Oct. 21, 2017 | 12:12 p.m.
WAKEFIELD – On October 7, the Wakefield Historical Association unveiled their extensive – and impressive – tribute to Wakefield Veterans as part of The Foundation’s Homecoming Day. The display of images and artifacts from the families of over fifty veterans with direct ties to Wakefield was so popular that people lined up to enter the Gallery for most of the day. And, as Gayle Lanier, one of the members of the Board of Directors of the Association on hand, explained, planning and arranging the display was a monumental, but rewarding, effort shared equally among the several board members and other volunteers.
“The Wakefield Historical Association had their first meeting in February of 2017,” she began, “and immediately started working on preserving the history of our local veterans. From the beginning, the greatest aim has been to let people know that we’re here, and we want to save our history. So many times someone passes and people just put artifacts like these in a yard sale or throw them away, and we’d love to have an opportunity to acquire precious items like these for the preservation of our local history.”
As a steady stream of visitors examined artifacts and shared stories, Lanier continued.
“Luther D. Hanson, Curator for U.S. Army Quartermaster Museum at Fort Lee and his wife, Carol Hanson, who retired from the Casemate Museum of Fort Monroe, came here a day early to help properly set up the display of all these artifacts,” she said. “And so many people made such an effort to be here and involved today. The parade this morning was led by Grand Marshall Wilbur A. Burch, the oldest living veteran in Wakefield. Virginia Rives, who came from Richmond with her three sons and their wives, was the common link between four of the Wakefield veterans. And Tour Anderson Carson, a graduate of Wakefield High School, is the oldest Wakefield person attending, along with her three children – a local daughter, her two sons who flew all the way in from Colorado and Georgia to attend. Her late husband, John S. Carson Sr., was featured in the military artifact display and also a chapter about him is in the published book.”
The book to which Lanier referred was “Wakefield – Some of our Veterans and Their Stories,” compiled by member Ralph Seeley. She said that it contains 120 pages with black & white photographs and was (and remains) available for purchase. Another key element of the exhibit was a very large set of three-ring binders compiled by Association member Thomas Huber, featuring 315 veterans, each of whom has a page with their picture and a short synopsis of their military history.
From behind one of the display tables, a woman overseeing the medals, photographs, and books on the table, said, “I’m Sharon Patterson – proud mom of Sargeant Jayton D. Patterson, USMC.” Then, in answer to a question about him, she revealed that her son was killed in Iraq on January 15, 2005, by an I.E.D. – just two weeks before he was due to return home to his wife, Stephanie, and their at that time15-month-old daughter, Claire Michelle. Asked how she felt about the exhibit, Sharon said, “I think it’s wonderful, all the exhibits honoring all the veterans that served. It’s a wonderful thing.”
After the exhibit closed, Lanier explained why the project was so important to her, saying, “Because I love history – the local history and family history – and this was both. And people were so appreciative and supportive, both at the event today and while we were preparing for it. Local businesses put up American flags all over town and even put information about the event up on marquees. It was a great community effort.”
The Wakefield Historical Association continues to solicit veterans’ photographs and information for this ongoing project. They may be reached by calling 757-899-6451, writing to P O Box 392, Wakefield, VA 23888, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.