La PORTE – Saturday was a memorable one for some local veterans as the Mayor’s Veterans Committee hosted the 20th annual Robert F. Cutler, Sr. Veterans Walkway of Honor ceremony.
The event fittingly took place just days after historic anniversary for veterans. In welcoming those gathered at Soldiers Memorial Park, La Porte Mayor Mark Krentz said, “Let the 75th anniversary of D-Day serve as a bold reminder to all of what veterans do to keep us safe, and continue to keep us safe. We thank you and we will never forget.”
The park was filled with service men and women from all branches of the military, along with their family members, who gathered to honor their sacrifice for freedom.
All of the veterans being added to the walkway were recognized individually. The names were read aloud by Neil Lachmund, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran. He instructed veterans and their families to stand and be recognized as their names or the names of their loved one was called.
A brick was placed for each veteran in the Walkway of Honor. Each brick is engraved with the veteran’s name, branch, war or conflict in which they fought, along with their dates of service.
Veterans Committee member JoAnne Janisch gave some history about the building of the walkway. She explained that during former mayor Elmo Gonzalez’s term, committee member Barbara Hagenow read about a similar walkway in Mississippi. After sending away for more information, her husband, Jim, got onto a local radio station and rallied support for her cause.
The walkway was funded through community donations, and upkeep falls to the committee. Janisch confirmed, “currently the members of the Mayor’s Veterans Committee volunteer their time to place the bricks that are purchased each year. As of today, we are responsible for the maintenance of approximately 2,400 bricks.”
The walkway was dedicated to Robert F. Cutler Sr. during its unveiling in 1999.
La Porte County Coroner Robert “Bob” Cutler presented this year’s dedication. His father was a U.S. Army captain who served in the European and Pacific theaters during World War II. Cutler Sr. became the first La Porte Service Officer, a position he held for 12 years. He was also a driving force behind the placement of both the World War II and Korean War monuments in Soldier’s Memorial Park.
“When my father was a service officer, what he stressed was that every man and woman here is represented in a brick," Cutler said. "Often times, when [veterans] would come in for benefits, they would [mention] that they weren’t in a battle, or did not see combat. They didn’t think that were a part of the war effort.
"My father would stop them and say, ‘yes you were.’ These [veterans] didn’t turn their back on this country. They may not have been on the front lines, but they were a part of defending what we have today. What we have is freedom. It is because of all of the men and women that served that we are able to enjoy being out here today.”
The event concluded with committee member Larry Pinkerton, chaplain of Vietnam Veterans, Inc., giving the benediction. The committee invited all community members to attend a Veterans Day Ceremony on Nov. 11, which will be held at the La Porte Civic Auditorium.