Military Matters: Military Service Walk opens in Columbus

Military Matters: Military Service Walk opens in Columbus

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - A new memorial is now in place in Columbus, dedicated to soldiers and their families.

It's the focus of this week's Military Matters with News Leader 9's Chuck Leonard.

Sally Quillian Gates was barely a year old, when her father was killed in World War II. She never met Lieutenant Colonel Rudi Quillian, but Sally's never forgotten the message he included in a letter back home.

"I hope you will grow up to be like the two women who are the finest in the world, your mother and mine," reads Sally.

That correspondence is now part of a special memorial along the Columbus River Walk.

"[It's made up of] personal letters that were written from servicemen who died in different conflicts, home to their families," said Susan Wiggins, VP of the W.C. Bradley Company. "They paid the ultimate sacrifice, but so did their families."

Hearing the letters read aloud brings home the message that the price of freedom is far from free.

The Military Service Walk is the creation of the Servant Leadership Program at Columbus State University. It was dedicated in a somber ceremony on Memorial Day.

Not all of the letters are from loved ones. C.J. McClendon wrote to the family of Marine Lance Corporal Billy Stelpflug, years after he was killed in Beirut.

"I hope you can take some measure of comfort that your son has had a direct bearing on improving the lives of people he never met, mine included," reads C.J. McClendon, former Marine sergeant. "It was this attack that compelled me to enlist in the Marine Corps."

"We feel like as people walk through and read the letters that they're going to be moved to submit more letters to us. So, we expect this to expand and grow, for additional letters to be added and possibly expand further down the river."

One of the letters dates back to the 1860s, and tells of the Getchus brothers of Columbus, who were killed in separate battles of the Civil War.

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