They came from opposite sides of the United States to honor veterans of the 1950s Koran Conflict at the Fifth Annual Everest Honor Ceremony this past Saturday.
The ceremony, under guidance of Reuben Sullivan of Topeka, chairman, and Bob Edwards, San Francisco, Calif., vice chair, started at the Everest Middle School and moved to Everest City Park and the Honnell-Means Honor Garden. Veterans of all major U.S. military campaigns are memorialized in the Honor Garden.
The 1st Infantry Division Band out of Fort Riley performed marches before and during the ceremonies, under direction of Chief Warrant Officer Jeff Price. The band representing the oldest Army division in the United States, “The Big Red One,” in continuous service since 1917, thrilled the audience with a stirring rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” during flag raising ceremonies by American Legionnaires of Everest Post No. 288.
Keynote speaker at the middle school was Lt. Gen. Tod D. Wolters, son of the late Brig. Gen. Thomas Eedward Wolters, native of Everest, and Donna Wolters of Stillwater, Okla., the former Donna Rae Canty of Hiawatha.
Mrs. Wolters attended the ceremony, along with her other sons, Terry Wolters of Washington, DC, and Tim Wolters of Dallas, Texas, and families.
Lt. Gen. Wolters, commander, 12th Air Force and Air Forces Southern of Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona, was introduced by Everest Mayor Alfred Kimmi, emcee.
Lt. Gen. Wolters spoke of the military heritage of Everest in that one of the founding fathers was Thomas Honnell, who served as a captain during the Civil War, and “he shook the hand of Abraham Lincoln” before leaving the east and settling in the area that he helped to found as Everest. He added that his own son, also named Thomas Edward Wolters, is currently on his third tour of duty in Afghanistan.
Prior to the keynote address, Kimmi introduced Legionnaire Spencer Madison, who sang a moving tribute to the Korean veterans and especially those who gave their lives, among whom was Army Pvt. Daniel Mathena of Everest.
Edwards and Sullivan also addressed those in attendance, Edwards introducing members of the Honnell-Means, Miller and Hutchison-Sloan families, who he said have given so much to the park and Honor Garden.
Sullivan thanked everyone who has helped with the annual ceremonies, renovation and upkeep of the park and establishment of the Honor Garden. He also noted that the Wolters family is one of the few, if not the only Amerocan family to have two members holding the rank of general.
At the Honor Garden, Legion Commander Paul Becker presided over raising of the Flag, Sullivan and Edwards, both ERHS graduates, led the presentation of roses as tributes to the veterans of the Korean Conflict, assisted by Horton Boy Scout Troop 112, among others.
Renee George led the singing of “American the Beautiful.” Legionnaires fired a three-volley salute, and Jay Stevenson, bugler from Topeka, sounded “Taps.”
Lt. Gen. Wolters is a command pilot with almost 5,000 hours of flying time. He is a decorated veteran of Desert Storm, Southern Watch, Iraqui Freedom and Enduring Freedom. His post at Davis-Monthan includes oversight of units made up of more than 800 aircraft and 65,000 airmen, plus military capabilities throughout the 31 nations of Latin America.
Sullivan said he was asked how it was possible to get the general to come to Everest to give a speech, and that it was simple: “You ask his mother first.”