Walters family served their countryPublished 5:00am Saturday, August 22, 2009
Part of a continuing series on Niles’ historic Silverbrook Cemetery, provided by Friends of Silverbrook Cemetery, a group working to preserve and restore the cemetery.
OF SILVERBROOK CEMETERY
Will there ever be a world without war? A naive question, we suppose.
We watch national and international news flooding our television screens and newspapers each day. Our focus is regularly distracted by the horrors of war and the sacrifices it commands. Or is it?
The danger with the massive amount of data that bombards our lives through the visual medium of television, our newspapers and even bleeping its way into our day through our computers and cell phones, is that we become numb. If you ever feel a need for a reality check, we invite you to spend a pleasant morning, afternoon or evening taking a stroll through Silverbrook Cemetery.
In the peace and quiet of the resting place of our predecessors, one cannot help but notice the graves of so many who fought for our right to take that walk. Looking at the individual gravesites, one becomes increasingly more aware of families who still wait for the safe return of those who fight to protect our freedoms today.
Think of the Walters family with three members now at rest in Silverbrook. Even though two of the family members it seems did not live in Niles during their lives, the bond of service makes it appropriate that the memorials to their lives remain together.
“In 1943 fighter pilot Captain Harry Leroy Walters … had been killed (Oct. 23, 1943) in action near Choiseul in the Solomon Islands, South Pacific; his body was not recovered. A memorial stone was placed in Silverbrook Cemetery, Niles, Michigan, in memory of Captain Walters,” according to www.virtualwall.org/dw/WaltersTL01a.htm.
History records: “The Raid on Choiseul was a small unit engagement that occurred from Oct. 28 to Nov. 3, 1943, during the Solomon Islands campaign. United States Marines from the 2nd Parachute Battalion, led by Lt Col. Victor “Brute” Krulak, landed on Japanese occupied Choiseul in the northern Solomon Islands and carried out raids on Japanese army and navy forces over a 40 kilometer (25 mi) area over the course of seven days. The raid was meant to divert Japanese attention from the planned Allied landings on the west coast of Bougainville at Empress Augusta Bay.
“During the course of the operation, Krulak’s 650 man battalion, assisted by an Australian coastwatcher and native Choiseul islanders, killed 143 Japanese troops, losing 14 Marines (12 killed in action, two missing), in actions later described by Major General Roy Geiger as, ‘a series of short right jabs designed to throw the enemy off balance and conceal the real power of the left hook to his midriff at Empress Augusta Bay.’”
Did the fact that Captain Walter’s body was never found deter other young men in the family from service? Obviously not.
Captain Harry’s nephew followed his uncle into war.
Tim Leroy Walters was from South Bend, Ind. Educated at Washington-Clay High School he graduated in 1961. In high school he had played football all four years.
After high school, he entered the University of Montana for two years where he became a member of the Parachute Club and developed a keen interest in sky-diving.
Joining the U. S. Army in June 1964, Walters trained at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and Fort Benning, Georgia where he became parachute-qualified in the U. S. Army. He returned to serve with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
This Walters deployed to Vietnam with a brigade of the 101st in 1965 and there he remained for the next three and 3/4 years.
Walters’ page on the virtual wall continues the story.
“He qualified Special Forces while in Vietnam through the MACV Recondo School. On March 9, 1969, he was the observer in an O-2A fixed wing aircraft on a combat support mission about 5 miles into Laos, west of the DMZ.
“The aircraft went down for unknown reasons. The pilot and SSG Walters both perished. “A ground team was inserted into the area later that day and they reported both individuals were killed in the crash, however, hostile forces in the area prevented the team from extracting the bodies. They were able to extract maps, weapons and a camera from the aircraft, but left the remains behind.”
It was not until Aug. 11, 1999 that SSG Walters’ remains were positively identified and returned to Niles and Silverbrook to be buried next to the memorial for his uncle.
Where did this young man get his desire to serve and his desire to fly high for his country?
The answer lies in the obituary of one who did return home. Harry’s brother Marvin E. Walters was SSG Walters’ father was born May 17, 1920. He was a Lieutenant in the US Army Air Corp and a WWII fighter pilot.
This Walters came home from war. He had married Marylynn D. Bourdon on May 15, 1941.
In South Bend he worked for Bendix before opening his own general construction business.
Moving to Odessa, Texas he joined an honorary colonel as he owned and operated a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise. He retired to Mesa, Ariz.
He was an active member of the American Legion in Niles and wherever he lived. One can easily imagine him marching in many a Memorial Day parade to commemorate his brother and son. The Buchanan Ralph Rumbaugh Post No. 51 performed the full military honors during his funeral.
Memorial donations were requested in his obituary to be made to Leisure World Wellness Center in Mesa. A search for Leisure World suggests that this is a retirement village offering its residents the “best of both worlds for retirees” where they can remain as active or as “relaxed and carefree” as they desire.
We like the imagined notion of Marvin celebrating health and a long life not only for himself, but in some way, to honor those family members who never did make it home.
We are proud that he chose to return to Niles to be buried with his uncle and son.
Back at “the wall” there are messages left by one, whose relative escorted Tim Walters’ body home and from a representative of the Permian Basin Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial located at Midland International Airport, Midland, Texas. Odessa, Ector County, Texas, adopted Walters as the representative MIA/POW for their memorial.
There is also another message left by another Vietnam era veteran, Noel Utter: “Your courage and honor will never be forgotten. I will honor you in my heart as a faithful warrior for the peace of mankind…
“Each day that I live and breathe I know it’s because of those like you who paid for my freedom with your blood. It’s very much the same thing Jesus Christ did, but he did it for our sins, you did it for our freedom. Thank you, Thank you Thank you, my friend whom I never knew, your death is precious in our remembrance, and precious in the sight of the Lord. Words cannot communicate my thanks to you. I would have been honored to fight and die next to you.”
Utter’s dedication to one he never met led us to think that he would approve this notion of a stroll of remembrance, just because.
Perhaps you will be moved to do more.
For more information on Friends of Silverbrook with regards to memberships and work days to help restore and catalog the monuments contact: Friends of Silverbrook Cemetery c/o 508 E. Main St. Niles MI 49120, Tim and Candace Skalla at 684-2455, firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Ginny Tyler at 445-0997, SPHINX1974@aol.com.