BUCKHANNON - Long after Monday's Veterans Day Parade had concluded, crowds of service members, their families and patriotic community members lingered in Jawbone Park.
Some took pictures, others chatted with old friends and many silently strolled along the pavement, peering at the freshly hung red, white and blue banners.
The 145 banners - each of which depicts a past or present member of the U.S. military with connections to the Upshur County community - line the edges of the farmers' market shelters in the park, forming what has come to be known as the Walk of Valor.
The Inter-Mountain photo by Katie Kuba
Sporting his full uniform, Nathan Duke, who served in the Marines between 1967-1968, stands proudly in front of the banners that make up the Walk of Valor in Buckhannon’s Jawbone Park.
Monday's parade route, which traveled east to west along Main Street, ended at the Walk of Valor, where many people snapped pictures of the veterans in their families, who stood below banners relatives had purchased in their honor.
John E. Miller, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, looked up at one such banner, which had been purchased to commemorate his service.
"We the People Salute John E. Miller," it read.
"That's a pretty good-looking young man up there, don't you think?" Miller joked with his daughter, who had traveled from out of town to attend Monday's
Seated some distance away from the Walk of Valor, Buckhannon Mayor Kenny Davidson, a U.S. Army veteran, admired the banners - and the crowd they drew - from afar.
"There's an awful lot of people here," he said. "In fact, there are more folks here than I ever remember seeing and I've been participating in this event for some years now. These banners are just fantastic."
A project coordinated by Create Buckhannon, the purpose of the Walk of Valor is twofold, said volunteer CJ Rylands. In addition to commending veterans for their sacrifices and service, the Walk of Valor is also intended to create a space within which community members can connect, he said.
"The strength of a community is only determined by the strength of the connections between people in it," Rylands said. "Look around at what's happening... people are talking with each other, like they used to do in the old days when you had to go to the butcher shop three times a week.
"And what better way (to create a social space) than to pay tribute to people who made a hell of a sacrifice?"
Rylands said Create Buckhannon, which is partnering with The Sign Guy to produce the banners, anticipates the project will expand. There's enough room for 270 banners to hang along the Walk of Valor, he said, and they'll be utilized during Memorial Day and Fourth of July holidays as well.
In fact, Daniel Marsh, owner of The Sign Guy, was on scene Monday to take orders from folks who wanted banners and magnets picturing their loved ones who have served at home and abroad.
"It's been unbelievable to see the hometown hero kind of come out," Marsh said. "Create Buckhannon was really spot on; I think they really hit a nerve with the community."
Indeed, during a special Veterans Day luncheon held at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3663 Monday afternoon, Del. Bill Hamilton, R-Upshur, observed that Monday's parade attracted "one of the largest crowds we've had in recent
Two of those parade attendees - Buckhannon Manor residents Shirley Squires and Virgie Landers - adorned themselves in red, white and blue and donned Uncle Sam-style top hats and star-spangled shades over their regular glasses.
Squires said she dresses up for Buckhannon's Veterans Day Parade every year.
"I don't miss none of them," she said. "I always try to come up and see the veterans and pay my respects. They've put their lives on the line for us."
Upshur County Commissioner JC Raffety, who also spoke during the Veterans Day luncheon Monday afternoon, pointed out that veterans have not only sacrificed their lives; they've also sacrificed "the most precious commodity we have as humans" - time.
"Those who have served in war and those who have served in peace have all served," Raffety said. "What is the one thing they all sacrifice? It's the greatest thing we as humans possess, and it is time. We do not know how long we will be on this earth, and as you grow older, time becomes increasingly important," he continued, "and veterans have sacrificed their time, their comfort in the service of others."
Contact Katie Kuba by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at IMT-Kuba.