Taps in the Park works to honor those who served

Published 12:10 am Tuesday, May 7, 2024

GRANITE QUARRY — U.S. Navy Aviation Machinist Mate 2nd Class Oriola Aregbesola died in the Red Sea on March 20 when he went overboard from the U.S.S. Mason. Aregbesola was the first on a list of names five pages long of active-duty military personnel, veterans, first responders and “Rosie the Riveters” who died and were honored for their service during the monthly Taps in the Park at Granite Lake Park.

The idea to hold a monthly event honoring those who lost their lives began in Martinsville, Indiana, after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The “Taps on the Square,” as it was called there, continued every month as a way to honor those who served their nation. When John and Tina Kanipe moved down to Rowan County for John’s job, the two decided that the tradition was something that they wanted to bring with them.

“We did it in snow, rain. When we moved down here and joined the Amvets, she decided she wanted to start it up here and we now do it one Friday a month,” said John Kanipe.

Originally, the two started the event in Rockwell. Tina Kanipe connected with Ronnie Stewart, a bugler who played “Taps,” who in turn connected her with Colonel Tom Steele, another bugler. That connection with Steele has lasted through four years.

“It’s us three that make the decision on everything. He’s been our main bugler, and if there’s anybody else that we find that can play ‘Taps,’ it’s going to have to go through him before they can do it,” said Tina Kanipe.

Eventually, the three realized that the event was not growing in Rockwell as much as they had hoped it would. They brought a proposal before the Granite Quarry Board of Aldermen and asked for permission to utilize Granite Lake Park.

“We started in Rockwell, where we did it for two years. We were doing it there by the post office and the three of us got together and said we need to change something because we’re not getting the people to come out to see us. So, I threw out Granite and we all agreed this would be a good spot and then we started talking about the park. The mayor, she has been excited about this, and the board also. We got everything approved for us to be here,” said Tina Kanipe.

Included in Friday’s list were the names of the four officers who were killed in the shooting in Charlotte on April 29. Two of those officers were also veterans. Officer Joshua Eyer served in the North Carolina National Guard and Investigator Alden Elliot served in the U.S. Marine Corps, but Tina Kanipe said that the group honors everyone who dies in the line of service. 

Also mentioned on Friday were Deputy Fred Fisler who died in Indiana of electrocution while investigating a crash scene, officer Joseph McKinney who was shot and killed in Tennessee, Officer Kyle Hicks who died from gunshot wounds sustained while responding to a domestic disturbance in Texas and the other two killed in the Charlotte shooting, Investigator Sam Poloche and Deputy U.S. Marshal Thomas Weeks.

“We read the names of the fallen police officers and firefighters every month. But tonight, with everything that’s gone on, we wanted it to be more noticeable that there are people out there that care for the fire and the police departments and we’re not going to let them be forgotten,” said Tina Kanipe.

Currently, the group holds the service at the flagpole in Granite Lake Park. But Tina and John Kanipe said that they are working on having a design created for a permanent memorial monument for the armed services in the park, which would be where they hold the services in the future.

The group will also be in China Grove on Memorial Day for the ceremony. Steele said that they are working together with Freightliner, the Amvet Riders, an aviation company and transportation companies for the event. Martha Corriher will be the guest speaker for the event.

As for the first Friday of every month, the three all said that they are committed to staying in Granite Quarry and town officials have been supportive of their work. Alderman John Linker was in attendance on Friday and while Mayor Brittany Barnhardt was unable to attend, she said that she attends as often as possible and believed that every alderman had made it at least once to show their support. Fire Chief and Interim Town Manager Jason Hord was in attendance as well on Friday and said that he asks all firefighters working that night to attend the event if possible.