City dedicates wall for veterans

As the May heat scorched about Claremont City Park, Chester E. Deal just smiled.

The crowd of 100 or so area citizens was quickly leaving the annual Memorial Day ceremony to escape the 90-degree heat, but Deal and his family lingered around to take a few photos.

Deal, 92, who now uses a wheelchair to get around, looked over at a large stone wall next to the Veterans Memorial at the city park and read "Chester Ellis Deal — Merchant Marines."

He looked at his family and smiled, knowing that his service to the country will forever be etched in stone.

Deal was one of many veterans whose name is, or will be, etched on the city of Claremont’s Wall of Honor located in Claremont City Park.

City officials and area citizens gathered Monday as the wall was unveiled during the city’s annual Memorial Day Service.

“This is to let people remember and not forget the service and the sacrifices that were made by the ones that were killed in service and the one’s that survived,” said Norman Morrow, 83, of Conover, who is a United States Navy and Air Force veteran.

Morrow, father of Claremont Mayor Dave Morrow, said he was happy to see such a large turnout at the ceremony.

Morrow’s name is also etched in the wall.   

The wall, located directly adjacent to the existing Veterans Memorial in Claremont City Park, currently has about 40 names of area veterans who are dead and alive.

About 4-feet high and 6-feet wide, the wall cost $1,500 and was paid for by the city of Claremont.

“Everyone in the city can come here, sit and appreciate the names,” said Henry Helton, special events coordinator with the city of Claremont. “It really fits in good.”

Helton said the Wall of Honor was first proposed Paul Gaither, of Conover, whose son went on a trip to Washington, D.C., and came back with an idea for a memorial in Claremont.

“Washington is full of monuments,” Helton said. “Newton has a monument, Hickory has a monument, so why can’t Claremont have a monument?” Helton said.

After Gaither brought forth the idea for the wall, Helton said Claremont Mayor Dave Morrow and council member P.J. Stanley “jumped on board.”
“It’s to honor the veterans that serve the country and gave their life,” Stanley said. “That’s just a small token of what we can do to show our appreciation.”

Stanley read aloud the names of those on the Wall of Honor on Monday after U.S. Navy Master Chief Ray Cerda addressed the crowd.
“Each and every generation has answered the call for freedom and each and every generation has succeeded,” Cerda said. “They gave their all to preserve our constitution and to preserve our freedom.”

Cerda said he dedicates the Wall of Honor to every father, son, brother or uncle who died or served for the United States.

Veterans from all branches of service were present at the ceremony Monday, including Detachment 1163 of the Marine Corps League from Hickory.

The veterans, who served in Vietnam among other global conflicts, presented flags and sounded a 21-gun salute at the ceremony.

“It’s an honor and privilege for us to do all these things,” said Jim Holman, a Marine Corps League member and Vietnam veteran. “We are honoring those that paid it all.”