In a ceremony held Monday morning at the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center, 550 new commemorative pavers were dedicated on Heritage Walk.
An estimated 400 people attended the 11 a.m. event. Nearly 500 people who purchased pavers since the last installation were invited, said museum spokeswoman Cyndy Cerbin.
“We’re a people who are at times quick to criticize each other. But this is something different,” said retired Maj. Gen. Jerry White, president of the National Infantry Foundation. “It’s a time to say ‘thank you. Thank you for what you’ve done.’”
There’s a story to go with each of the thousands of smooth slabs of engraved marble that line the straight path linking the museum to its parade field. This new batch of pavers is no different.
— An online support group for military moms learned about the combat death of the son of one its members, Mary Wildes. Though none of the members knew each other, they raised more than $1,000 to purchase a paver in Pfc. Matthew Wildes’ honor. Mary and Clint Wildes traveled from Louisiana to attend the ceremony.
“We’re like family now,” Mary Wildes said. “It’s just a wonderful group of people.”
“They’re very, very nice people,” said Clint Wildes. “I just can’t understand how people have that in their heart to do things like that.”
— Columbus orthopedic surgeon Dr. Carl Savory purchased 29 pavers to honor each of his West Point classmates who were killed in action. Savory graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1967 and was a member of the 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment Delta, now known as Delta Force. He is a veteran of both the Vietnam War and the first Gulf War as well as a member of the Ranger Hall of Fame.
— Officer Candidate School Class 4-65 bought 19 pavers in honor of fellow classmates killed in action, including Rick Rescorla, the retired infantryman who is credited with saving thousands of people from the collapsing World Trade Center on Sept. 11. Rescorla died that day in lower Manhattan.
— Fort Benning Italian liaison officer Lt. Col. Fabrizio Salerno purchased seven pavers for each of the soldiers in his Italian Airborne unit who were killed in Afghanistan. “I dedicated these pavers for them because they lost their lives in order to restore the freedom in Afghanistan that we are fighting with your guys together,” Salerno said. “So I think that was a good thing to remember them and to honor their lives. So, I will send a copy of the pavers to Italy for their families and for our unit.”
— A paver was also dedicated in honor of Lt. Tyler Brown, a former student government president at Georgia Tech who was killed in action shortly after graduating college and becoming a U.S. Army Ranger. Several ROTC cadets from Georgia Tech traveled to Columbus for the ceremony.
— Former infantryman and secretary of the Army Howard “Bo” Callaway purchased a paver in honor of his “devoted Army wife” Beth Callaway, who died recently.