Stadium for those who have fallen

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 24, 2003

Kenneth Walker has had health problems recently and the sun drains his energy.

He made his way slowly toward the gate of Memorial Stadium with a wreath, wrapped in black, and an American flag displayed upside down. He had to pause to rest several times.

"That's a sign of distress," Walker said of the flag. "I'm distressed and so are a lot of other veterans of World War II. We never build monuments to veterans, only to those who died. This stadium is a memorial to the boys who fought and died. This is for them, so that we'll not forget the sacrifices they made."

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He placed the wreath and flag at the gate of Memorial Stadium as a symbol of the distress he feels at Troy State University's decision to remove "Memorial" from the stadium that was built as a memorial to the Pike County veterans who died in World War II.

Walker, commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4942, said he is deeply saddened and distressed that Troy State University has, once again, "stepped in the face of the dead boys of World War II."

"The stadium at Troy State was to be a lasting memorial to these boys," Walker said. "It was nothing but a mud hole until the money was given to build a monument to those veterans who died for our freedom. It's mighty sad to see those boys sold out."

Troy State University has entered into a 20-year, multi-million dollar contract with Movie Gallery that will change the name of the Memorial Stadium to Movie Gallery Veterans Stadium. However, the stadium will officially be known as Movie Gallery Stadium.

Walker said this is the second time Troy State has attempted to "deface" the memorial to the veterans of World War II.

"They did it with Richard Scrushy and they're doing it now with a video store," he said. "I know it takes money to grease the wheels of progress, but how do you put a price on the lives of young men who gave their all for their country? They greased the wheels of progress with blood.

"They never got a chance to come home and see their mothers and fathers again. They never got a chance to marry a pretty Southern girl or play ball with their sons or go hunting or fishing. When the name 'Memorial Stadium' comes down and those people walk through that gate, they will be stepping in the faces of the boys who died for our freedom."

Walker said he has had calls from veterans all across Alabama and from other states expressing sadness and anger at the decision made by the university's board and administration.

"We will not forget them," he said. "They will not ever be able to live this down. We will always remember what they did - and how they forgot the supreme sacrifices of the brave men who fought and died."

Walker said a university is a place where people go to get an education and earn degrees.

"They go to gain knowledge, but wisdom comes from God," he said. "There was no wisdom pertaining to Memorial Stadium.

"On an island in the Pacific, there is a memorial to our veterans of World War II and it reads: 'When you go home tomorrow tell them of us who stayed.We gave our tomorrows that they stand free today.'

"Memorial Stadium was built to honor those who gave their tomorrows. We stand free today, but our flag should fly in a sign of distress - lest we forget those who stayed."