Wineka column: Eagle Scout candidate pays monumental tribute to war veterans of Union Lutheran Church
SALISBURY — His Eagle Scout project left Jordan “Jordy” Smith thinking he was an editor, public speaker, historian and fundraiser.
You should throw in patriot, too.
Members of Boy Scout Troop 334 gathered in the rear of the Union Lutheran Church cemetery Wednesday night to dedicate a handsome granite monument and bench made possible through Smith’s Eagle project.
These newest structures honor church members who fought in all the wars since Union Lutheran’s founding in 1774. The war veterans named on the monument also include those buried in the cemetery who were not members of the church.
Each name is etched into the stone, along with the emblems of the U.S. Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy; the U.S. flag; and the words “In Honor of Our Veterans.”
In all, there are 96 names under the headings of eight wars or conflicts.
By far, most of the veterans noted fought in World War I1 — 52 soldiers. Other wars and the number of veterans associated with each include the Revolutionary War, one; Civil War, 11; World War I, four; Korea, 15; Vietnam, 10; Desert Storm, two; and Iran-Iraq War, one.
The gray granite monument stands about 51/2 feet tall and is 2 feet square. Each of the four sides carries names.
“The hardest thing was getting the names right because, literally, they’re set in stone,” said Smith, the 17-year-old son of Susan and Kevin Smith.
Susan Smith said they made revisions at least 10 times to make sure the spelling of names was correct before handing the list over to the monument company.
At the bottom of the monument, Smith included a dedication to family friends and fellow church members Bob and Betty Goodwin.
“He was the one who got me into Scouts to begin with,” Smith said of Bob Goodwin.
Betty Goodwin said the personal dedication from Smith was “quite an honor.”
“We were surprised,” Bob added. The couple also were impressed with Smith’s thoroughness on the project.
“He got all the ones he could possibly find,” Bob Goodwin said. “Now we’ve got the veterans honored all the way back ... I think the location’s perfect, too.”
Scoutmaster Bill Marlow said he witnessed a transformation in Jordy as the Scout worked more than a year on the project. Smith found himself speaking to several civic organizations as part of his fundraising efforts.
The first time he spoke in front of a group, Marlow said, Jordy’s voice crackled and he had a bit of stage fright.
By the time he was speaking for the third and fourth times, he was talking about the project with conviction, passion and heart, Marlow said. By then his demeanor was, “Step aside, I got this,” Marlow added.
“I saw him blossom like a flower.”
The project taught Smith a lot about the Union Lutheran congregation and how it was affected by wars over more than two centuries.
“It was a history lesson in itself,” Marlow said.
What started out as a project with a $2,500 budget grew to more than $6,000 — $6,109.21 to be exact. Much of the cost, Smith said, was wrapped in engraving all the names.
Triplett’s Marble and Granite of Statesville provided the stone for the monument and its bench, which includes thanks to the 40 and 8 and the Elks Lodge for their significant contributions.
Susan Smith said her son, who will be a senior this fall at North Hills Christian School, has raised $5,500 of the total so far. He will appear before the Eagle board in late June.
“That the biggest Eagle Scout project I’ve ever seen,” said Robert Goodwin, whose name in on the stone under the Korean War.
Jordy Smith said the idea for the monument came from his discussions with Marlow and a personal wish to do something for the church and its veterans.
From the beginning, the idea included a bench, from which visitors could sit and have a view of the whole cemetery and the church behind it.
The monument and bench were set in place a week ago. Plans are for the Union Lutheran congregation to have its own dedication, too.
Smith, who doesn’t have any relatives listed on the monument, said it’s pretty amazing to see the stone in place and know it’s going to be here a long time.
“It feels really good,” he said.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or email@example.com.