Story and Photos By Hannah Lester
Opelika, like Auburn, has chosen to honor its Veterans in a very public way.
On Seventh Street in downtown Opelika, by city hall and the mayor’s office sits the Opelika veteran’s Monument.
The monument’s main — and most prominent — portion, is the obelisk at the corner.
Surrounding the obelisk is a walkway with little markers for all 50 states.
“And then we have all the different services, Marines, Army, Airforce, Navy, Coastguard,” said Opelika Mayor Gary Fuller. “All of those service flags are displayed around that particular monument.”
This was installed in 2002 when Barbara Patton was mayor of Opelika, Fuller said. Fuller was on the city council at that time.
“A veterans committee came up with that and we placed that, and it’s, of course, I think very attractive and that’s generally when we’ve had ceremonies here at city hall for either Veterans Day or Memorial Day, that’s where they place the wreath at the base of that monument,” Fuller said.
As part of the monument, there are two markers for medal of honor recipients.
“Col. Robert Howard was from Opelika and several years ago, when Bob Riley was the governor, we had unveiled that marker for Col. Howard,” Fuller said. “Then later we had a second medal of honor recipient in Command Sgt. Maj. Bennie Adkins … We have a marker there also for Bennie. So both of those are there to honor their memory.”
Both are in-ground markers and are not the only markers in place, either.
“Opelika has a proud tradition of honoring our veterans and that didn’t just start with me, that’s been going on for many, many years,” Fuller said.
“… I remember probably … ten or 12 years ago, we did a proclamation and we ran copies for our Vietnam veterans, thanking them for their service because a lot of those veterans did not get an appropriate welcome when they got home. They were treated pretty shabbily. So, we gave each one of those, at one of our ceremonies, we had those proclamations and we gave [those] out to those service members that had served in Vietnam.
“You know, it was pretty touching. I had one guy come up to me with tears in his eyes and thanking me for that because they had never been recognized. … Of course it was long after the fact but I think it’s an indicator of how we feel about our veterans and their service to our country.”
Fuller said that he believes it’s important to honor these men and women who volunteer to serve today, too.
“They take the pledge to defend the Constitution and so many of them wind up in harm’s way, and I think it’s the fact that they are willing to wear the uniform, that they are willing, if necessary, you know, to make the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom,” he said. “So, they deserve our respect and admiration, you know, for their service. And that goes for folks that are serving today or folks that served 50 years ago. We should be grateful for their willingness, you know, to serve.
“And I think it’s patriotism, I’m still convinced, even with the issues that we have, especially in Washington, that we live in the greatest country on the face of the earth and we’re so blessed and fortunate, and especially to be able to live in Opelika. And those veterans have had a lot to do with that.”
Fuller gave his thanks to all of Opelika’s veterans.
“My heartfelt thanks for their service, for their courage and their willingness to serve our country and I am so grateful for each and every one of them,” he said.