GALLIPOLIS — Retired 1st Sgt. Don Walker spoke with Gallia Academy Middle School students on Veterans Day to discuss the importance of military members in society and to endorse a holiday initiative to send moral support to existing service members through letters.
“Have you ever wondered what keeps a veteran going as they face some of the most challenging and dangerous circumstances imaginable?” Walker asked students. “This is not an easy question to answer. Serving your country is a very complicated task, one that requires commitment. Soldiers have a priority list: my country, my mission, my soldiers and, lastly, myself. While serving their country, veterans must put everything the military orders them to do at the top of their priority list. Anyone who puts duty and commitment to their country in front of themselves is a leader.”
Walker served in the U.S. Army from 1990 to 2010. He served as a watercraft operator and two tours in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He returned to Gallipolis in 2014 to be with his wife, Jennifer Walker, and their son, Dylan Walker.
“We tend to think about our military today in terms of things like fast jets, powerful ships, smart weapons … tanks and even the battle gear I am wearing today. But the most powerful resource supporting our armed forces is, and always will be, people — the people wearing the uniforms and the people who support them,” Walker said.
Walker explained to students that letters from family and friends were some of the chief things that kept him going in his day-to-day military activities, not just the equipment that kept him safe.
“The holiday season is upon us. While we are home peacefully enjoying our families in the coming months, there will be men and women stationed all around the world defending our freedom to do so,” Walker said. “I want you to drop an unsealed, unaddressed Christmas card with a letter written inside at the school office. Your cards can also be dropped off at the Gallia County Chamber of Commerce or Norris Northup Dodge. We will be hand-delivering them to the Red Cross the day before Thanksgiving and your letters will be mailed to the brave men and women who won’t be home for the holidays.”
According to Jennifer Walker, associate director of the Gallia County Chamber of Commerce — and Don’s wife — the letter initiative being endorsed is known as “Holiday Mail for Heroes” and is a morale-boosting initiative hosted by the American Red Cross.
Individuals wishing to be involved can drop off unsealed letters or cards with a nonstamped envelope at Gallia Academy Middle School, Norris Northup Dodge or the Gallia County Chamber of Commerce before Nov. 25.
Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, Ext. 2103.