Fort Mill Times

Flint Hill Baptist ceremony honors nation's veterans

Bagpiper Kenneth O'Neill plays"Taps" as members of the Flint Hill Memorial Association visit the marked graves of veterans and family members, part of the association's 118th memorial service Sunday.
Bagpiper Kenneth O'Neill plays"Taps" as members of the Flint Hill Memorial Association visit the marked graves of veterans and family members, part of the association's 118th memorial service Sunday.

The quiet, deliberate roll call - 283 names proud - served as a solemn reminder Sunday of the sacrifice of a nation's fighting men and women.

"J.S. Adkins ... William Anderson ... Dick Alexander ... " and the list of the fallen went on, those buried at the cemetery of the historic Flint Hill Baptist Church in Fort Mill, lifted up by the voices of those connected to long-ago and not-so-long-ago wars.

More than 100 from the Civil War, a handful from the Spanish-American War, three dozen from World War I, nearly 100 from World War II, 18 from the Korean conflict, seven from the war in Vietnam, and two from the Persian Gulf war.

"I feel really small because of the really great people who have been here before me," said Lt. Col. Wesley Franklin Walker of Rock Hill, a veteran of the war in Vietnam, speaking both to and for the crowd of 30 or so veterans and dozens of others on hand at Flint Hill Sunday.

As if on cue, a light rain fell over the cemetery as a serenade of "Taps" and a 21-gun salute by Fort Mill's own American Legion Post 43 cracked across the sky.

It marked the 118th time the Flint Hill Memorial Association has brought the community together on the third Sunday in May to honor more than 200 military veterans buried in the church cemetery.

Each headstone in the cemetery was marked with a small flag - American or Confederate - in honor of the service of the honored dead below.

Walker, himself honored with the Distinguished Service Cross - the second-highest medal awarded for combat - served as an Army Scout Pilot who was part of an attempt to push the North Vietnamese Army back across the demilitarized zone.

Through pictures from the early 1970s, Walker, who has an Army National Guard of South Carolina weapons range named after him at Fort Jackson in Columbia, told the story Sunday of how he earned his Distinguished Service Cross.

In July 1972, a helicopter carrying about 60 people went down in enemy territory in Vietnam. Walker flew one of two small helicopters into heavy fire to rescue six survivors.

The other helicopter and three wounded loaded and Walker said they had two loaded when the pilot of the downed helicopter hadn't boarded. Walker said he later learned that pilot hesitated because he was worried Walker's chopper was overloaded.

All veterans deserve recognition for their service, he said, but unfortunately, "so many got none."

The Flint Hill Memorial Association originally was called the Jefferson Davis Memorial Association to honor the dozens of Flint Hill men who served and died in the Confederate cause, Little said.

The group first met on May 9, 1891, and continued to meet each year adding the fallen from other wars to their honor roll.

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