Green Hills makes memorial for service members

Published 10:10 pm Thursday, May 20, 2010

In Arlington, Va., 200 acres are set aside to honor among others, countless brave men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces in defense of freedom. The Arlington National Cemetery serves as a sacred place, where those heroes rest unforgotten.

One Pike County veteran has envisioned having such a sanctuary in Troy.

“Nowhere that I know of, other than the national cemetery, is there a dedicated area for veterans past and present to be buried,” said U.S. Navy veteran Benny Pinckard.

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With an unwavering respect for American service members, Pinckard, the owner of Green Hills Funeral Home, went to work making that vision a reality.

The undertaking was years in the making before it recently began to take shape, just in time for Memorial Day weekend. “It just started coming together,” he said.

The official unveiling is now only a week away.

The Green Hills Memorial Park Veterans’ Section Dedication will take place Friday, May 28, at the Green Hills Funeral Home at 10 a.m.

This week, Pinckard stood proudly at the center of the memorial, in front of a wall with a relief sculpture depicting veterans of the Vietnam era.

“This is called the plaza,” he said. “The plaza is the feature … of the veterans memorial garden. Not only is the plaza a feature, it’s a tribute to all veterans.”

Within the plaza is a cannon Pinckard acquired that was once used as a prop in the movie Last of the Mohicans.

On the opposite end is a bench that once stood at the Federal Courthouse in Montgomery.

Between the relics, an empty tomb serves as a representation of the Tomb of Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.

“It’s for all the guys that they never identified, are missing in action or are POWs,” Pinckard said.

In Arlington, the Tomb of Unknowns is guarded by the U.S. Army, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The tomb at Green Hills will always be watched over as well. “The flags will always fly here,” Pinckard said motioning to the banners high above the memorial.

And in the pristine grass surrounding the plaza beneath the flags will rise a garden of stone, not unlike what can be found at Arlington National Cemetery.

“The individual memorials will be set up on diagonals to look like Arlington,” Pinckard said.

Dedicating the monument will be an equally remarkable group of individuals.

Collectively they account for a silver star, multiple bronze stars and purple hearts and countless other medals.

The presenters have served in World War II, Vietnam, Iraq and other hostile environments.

The public is encouraged to witness this historic day to honor veterans past and present, and keep the memories of their sacrifices always alive.

The following exceptional people will be part of Friday’s momentous dedication:

MSG Gannon Edgy is a 16-year veteran of the U.S. Army. He is a combat veteran and has been awarded the Silver Star, the Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

SSG Robert Carlisle served in Vietnam from 1967-1968. There he earned two Bronze Stars, one for heroism in ground combat, and a purple heart after losing both his legs in an ambush.

Michael O’Hara is assigned to the Criminal Investigations Division of the Troy Police Department.

Sgt. James Alex Neal is a Pike County Native who served with the United States Marine Corps during the Vietnam Era. Among his decorations are the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for Heroism.

Captain William D. Barron retired from the navy after 26 years of dedicated service. He currently serves as Executive Assistant to Chancellor Hawkins at Troy University.

SFC Dennis Crowe is a combat medic who is currently a National Guard Recruiting and Retention NCO. Crowe has proudly served his country in Kuwait and Afghanistan.

SSG Charles Saunders is a WWII Veteran who battled on Utah Beach at Normandy, and several other campaigns in the European theater of operations. He is now Assistant Superintendent of Coffee County Schools.

Lenny Trawick retired from the U.S. Army after having completed two tours in Panama and one tour in Honduras.

Additionally, the Troy University Army ROTC will be the Honor Guard and the Patriot Guard Riders motorcycle group will be on hand as well.