A tradition of honoring those from Union County who died in the major wars of the 20th century continued this Memorial Day.
On Thursday, inmates from the Union County Detention Center under the supervision of Director Niel McKeown, placed 179 small white crosses along the Duncan Bypass. Each cross bears the name of a Union County resident killed in combat during World War I, World War II, the Korean Conflict, and the Vietnam War. Placed in the midst of the crosses is the silhouette of a soldier kneeling at the grave of a fallen comrade. Another symbol of those who gave their all is a pair of empty army boots decorated with red, white and blue flowers and ribbons. Above all this waves the flags of the US Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, and above them is Old Glory itself.
In addition to these patriotic and military symbols, the memorial also features a statuette of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace in whose heavenly kingdom war does not exist and in whom the souls whose names are featured on those 179 crosses have found their eternal rest.
The placing of these crosses with the names of Union County’s war dead began nearly 2o years ago when I.G. Vanderford, himself a US Army veteran of Korea and Vietnam, saw a similar memorial in Statesboro, Ga. Vanderford said Friday that he was in Statesboro just shortly before Memorial Day of that year and saw men placing crosses along Main Street. He said he stopped and talked to one of the men placing the crosses and was told it was done every year to honor the community’s war dead as part of Memorial Day. This impressed Vanderford who said he took a picture of the display and brought it back home to have crosses made and placed along the Duncan Bypass in memory of the war dead of Union County.
Vanderford said the first crosses were made of wood at Paradise Home Center, but that later an inmate at the detention made metal crosses which are the ones now being used. The crosses and the rest of the display are placed along the Duncan Bypass for Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
When not on display, the crosses and the rest are stored in a room at the Union County Recycling Center off SC 18. McKeown said inmates at the detention center built a special rack that holds the crosses while in storage. When it is time for them to be brought out for Memorial Day or Veterans Day, McKeown said the cart is wheeled out and placed on a truck to be transported to the Duncan Bypass along with the rest of the display.
In addition to the 179 crosses that have names on them, McKeown said there are several additional crosses which don’t have names. He said these were made in the event they are needed should the name of another veteran who died in service to his or her country needs to be added.
The display is a collaborative effort with its various elements having been donated over the years by those both known and unknown who wanted to help honor Union County’s fallen heroes. The silhouette of the soldier kneeling at the grave of a fallen comrade was cut and painted by Bobby Hall who, like Vanderford, is a a member of American Legion Post 87 in Buffalo. The flags representing the armed forces were donated by retired National Guardsman Ronnie Lee. The empty boots were left at the memorial by unknown donor in 2010 and are now a permanent part of the display.