Walk of memories, a somber experience

MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE, Kan. -- If you look closely, you may realize that you have driven past it a hundred times, maybe never realizing the significance or not knowing it at all. It's the Memorial Walk just past the main gate here.

Initial construction of the walk started in 1976 as a pathway for people coming from base housing to the chapel and other destinations on base. There were 27 stones laid along the path that year, each with a plaque of dedication for an individual or group. Among the first of which is dedicated to the "River Rats." The "River Rats" is an association of flyers dedicated to remembering those who gave their lives in Southeast Asia and Vietnam. Col. Jimmy Scott, 381st Strategic Missile Wing commander, who was instrumental in the establishment of the Memorial Walk in 1976, has a marker at the beginning of the walk, before the bridge.

Every step of the path is a reminder of the sacrifice one may be asked to make at any time. Since it's inception the walkway has changed from dirt and gravel to red cement to signify the bloodshed throughout the generations.

Today there are 206 marker stones, each marker also has a tree planted just behind it to signify ever growing life. 

You will notice coins on some of the stones, which is a tradition dating back to ancient Greece. During that time, coins were placed with the deceased to pay Charon, the ferry man over the River Styx, for transport to the underworld. The placing of coins is a tradition which has spread to other cultural backgrounds as well.

Mary Eary, 22nd ARW Mission Support Group secretary and Memorial Walk custodian said that the memorial walk has a vast history on it's journey. Ms. Eary, who is also very active with the retiree association, took on the job as memorial walk custodian after she noticed a long period of inactivity in the records. She now personally takes care of all arrangements for personnel desiring information concerning the walk.

Should you visit the Memorial Walk, it is asked that you not leave behind ribbons or strings, anything that could become foreign object damage. The small stands behind the stones are intended to be flag holders, though many hold flowers.

Markers can be arranged for anyone who has been stationed at McConnell, whether they are active duty, retired, military or civilian. There is a small cost for placement which covers the stone, plaque and the planting of a new tree. For more information contact Mary Eary at ext. 3500.