Veterans united to create tribute
WINCHESTER — Because Herb Taylor is a “saver,” the boots he waded through Korean rice paddies with are now memorialized in bronze for the ages.
Five copies of those leather boots guard the approach to the new Korean War Veterans Memorial, which was dedicated Saturday morning in Jim Barnett Park.
The idea of a memorial was one of the things that brought the Winchester Chapter of the Korean War Veterans together five years ago. The group has been working on creating the memorial for 31/2 years.
It took a while, said the chairman of the Memorial Committee, Gary Fletcher, simply to find a site.
The veterans had approached Stephens City looking for some public land for the monument, but got turned down. Sherando Park also was ruled out by Frederick County.
Then, they began working with Winchester. They were first offered a site on the east side of Jim Barnett Park, near Interstate 81. While they weren’t happy with it, the chapter was planning to build there, until City Council member Brad Veach suggested the present site, next to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It was perfect, Fletcher said.
The design was a product of discussions among the committee members and the architect, Tim Machado, of the Winchester firm of Design Concepts.
Fletcher said the veterans had seen another memorial that featured “a lot of boots,” and they asked Machado to “play with the idea.”
He suggested the design with five sets of boots, on small granite foundations, which seem to be stepping off toward the 6-by-8-foot gray granite wall that carries a map of Korea and the names of those from the chapter area killed during the fighting or missing in action.
Interspersed with the boots are benches for those who want to sit and look at the memorial stone.
The walkway and patio of the monument are made up of blocks and bricks with the name of those who donated to the construction or of those they wished to memorialize.
Machado said the empty boots, still seeming to stride forward, epitomize the sense of loss, for “those who didn’t make it back. “They are walking with us, toward the monument.”
Fletcher said they remind him that, when he arrived in Korea, “we hit the ground running.”
Clarke County sculptor Malcolm Harlow was commissioned to create the boots.
“They weren’t new when I got them,” Fletcher said with a smile. “They were left over World War II boots.”
Fletcher took them out of his closet, where they had languished for almost 60 years, put them on and “stood on a block of wood for a couple of hours” while Harlow sculpted copies to be cast in bronze.
Fletcher said he also has his Korean War uniform.
“When I got home, mama hung it in a closet. It’s still there.”
Fletcher said Donald Shade, superintendent of Mount Hebron Cemetery in Winchester, was invaluable in getting granite for the monument and lining up the engraving of the names.
Fletcher said chapter members raised $100,000 for the memorial and, even in difficult economic times, found the community generous.
“We visited all the VFWs and American Legions to ask for support,” Fletcher said. The amount raised will also provide an endowment to keep the site maintained in perpetuity.
No public money was used for the monument’s construction.
The veterans also added an educational element — a board outlining the causes of the Korean War.
“It was a good project,” said Machado. “We got a great spot for a great group of guys.”
Thompson agreed, adding that, with the age of most of the Korean veterans, “We won’t get a second chance.”
— Contact Val Van Meter at firstname.lastname@example.org