By Josette Keelor
Saturday's dedication of the new Korean War memorial in Winchester might never have happened if not for a chance meeting in 2008 between two Korean War veterans in a parking lot.
Charles Hoak, member of the Shenandoah Valley Chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association, said that's how chapter No. 313 began, when Lewis Ebert and Bill Scott decided to start a local chapter and ran an ad looking for members.
"We now have 75 members in this chapter," Hoak said.
With the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War on July 27, Hoak said he and other chapter members decided to build a memorial for the 60 regional soldiers who were killed during the war between June 25, 1950, and July 27, 1953.
Veterans whose names will be listed on the memorial and read aloud at Saturday's memorial ceremony were residents of Winchester, the counties of Frederick, Clarke, Warren and Shenandoah, and West Virginia counties of Jefferson, Berkeley, Morgan, Hampshire and Hardy.
In Washington, about 7,000 people are expected to attend the national Korean War anniversary ceremony on July 27, Hoak said. He and other members of the KWVA plan to attend as well.
"We're doing ours a week before so it wouldn't coincide with theirs," he said.
But Saturday's memorial has become part of a larger local event for which Hoak had not planned.
The Salute to Our Troops two-day event, organized by the Old Town Development Board in Winchester, plans a Friday night candlelight vigil at the POW/MIA Memorial in Jim Barnett Park, a Saturday morning Marine flag raising in Mt. Hebron Cemetery, a parade on Cameron Street at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, free talks and a Buffalo Soldiers presentation in addition to family events, music and food all afternoon Saturday.
Saturday's dedication ceremony was part of what inspired the Salute to Our Troops event, said Dario Savarese, special event promoter for the city. So was the 100th anniversary of the Buffalo Soldiers' training in Winchester.
As Hoak explained, about 150 years ago a cavalry regiment formed to police American Indians, "and the Indians named them the Buffalo Soldiers because of their kinky, curly hair."
Savarese said about 50 years later, on July 19, 1913, two brigades of Buffalo Soldiers encamped in Winchester for about three months to train before heading west. Reenactors will participate in Saturday's parade on horseback.
"We wanted to build something more than just a parade," Savarese said. "It's kind of a daylong event, and there's something for everyone."
Hoak said members of the KWVA also plan to march in the parade.
Saturday's dedication ceremony will last about an hour and a half, Hoak said, and will feature keynote speaker David Mills, former POW and Outpost Harry survivor during the Korean War.
The memorial, built in Jim Barnett Park next to the memorial for prisoners of war and those missing in action, was designed by Tim Machado, an architect with Design Concepts in Winchester.
"He designed it at no charge and he came up with the design, so we accepted that design," Hoak said.
Completed this week, it features a walkway to connect the two memorials and a brick Path of Honor leading to large granite pieces and a U.S. flag. Flanking both sides of the Path of Honor will be five pair of bronze military boots representing the five military branches of service -- Air Force, Navy, Army, Marines and Coast Guard.
Post 313 has used solar power to reduce the memorial's environmental impact and electrical costs, a press release explained. The memorial also has been designed to minimize the maintenance required by Winchester Parks and Recreation Department staff, which use the nearby War Memorial Building.
"We started raising funds about six months ago, and we raised $120,000 ... and we did that in six months without any government help, such as county, state or federal," Hoak said. "It all came from people."
The Salute to Our Troops event begins with a Candlelight Vigil at the POW/MIA Memorial in Jim Barnett Park, from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday.
Saturday's events begin at 8 a.m. with a Marine Flag Raising in Mt. Hebron Cemetery. From 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., the Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum will be open offering games on the walking mall.
The Korean War Memorial Dedication will take place at 10 a.m. adjacent to the POW/MIA Memorial.
A Salute to Our Troops parade will march through downtown Winchester beginning at 1 p.m., with Cameron Street closing at 11:30. After the parade, at 2:30 exhibitors, food vendors and live entertainment will be featured on the Loudoun Street Pedestrian Mall until 6:30 p.m.
At the Godfrey Miller House, 28 S. Loudoun St., a free POW talk will be held at 2:30 p.m., followed by a Buffalo Soldiers presentation at 3:30 p.m. and a free talk by Samantha Navarette at 4:30 p.m.
At 3:15 p.m., Snow White Grill will hold a hotdog-eating contest.
Then in the evening, the annual Shenandoah Moonlight Ball will be from 6 to 10 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church, 116 S. Loudoun St., Winchester. Offering a journey back in time, the ball will feature a southern celebration with Civil War-era dance instruction by Victorian Dance Ensemble and music by Susquehanna Travelers. No dance experience is necessary. For more information, call 540-662-4946.
Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org