Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

July 1, 2013

Wall offers salute to all those who served

Barry Porterfield
Pauls Valley Democrat — It’s not uncommon to see someone stop and salute with at times a few solemn moments where heartfelt tears are shed.

This is a sight seen in front of a wall display inside a Pauls Valley store memorializing the services of many a military veteran with dozens of patriotic images.

Mostly done with photographs the “Wall of Honor,” also called the “Stars and Stripes Wall,” can be seen by shoppers as they leave the local Walmart Supercenter.

With the Independence Day holiday not far away, store officials think this is the perfect time to stop and give a salute of our own.

The wall of photos honoring the military service of veterans is the brainchild of Walmart employee Larry Carnell.

Carnell is a Pauls Valley graduate who one day looked up and saw a wall he thought would be a good spot for a display that honors all American service men and women.

“One day I said we don’t have a wall of honor,” Carnell said. “We need a wall of honor.”

With the help of Fawn Riddle at the local high school Carnell’s idea got started with a small display of photos near the checkout area of the local store.

“That started it and then people started bringing in more and more photos,” Carnell said. “It just grew and grew from there.

“Our community is full of veterans. This wall of honor is to get people to recognize our military and the service they provide to all of us,” he said.

“We have customers come through and cry because it means a lot to them to see photos up there of their loved ones.”

Carnell and a number of other store employees believe honoring our military veterans in this way is just the right thing to do as the display as grown to include a television monitor.

“There are so many words unspoken to the veterans,” he said.

“This is a way to recognize their service. This is something simple but it says a lot. It’s a great honor to have this in the store.”

Among the many photos on the wall right now the oldest ones are of World War I veterans. Carnell admits he would love to someday have photos from the Civil War era.

That’s why he and the store as a whole is inviting the public to bring in their photos of vets. In fact the more the better as photos are scanned in the store’s photo lab and adorned with a patriotic border before going up.

“We want as many photos as we can get,” Carnell said. “We want to honor as many veterans as possible.”

Store manager Paul Jacobs proudly talks about the wall and what it means to both employees and shoppers.

“These are the people that made it happen for us,” Jacobs said.

“They are the ones who served our country so we could have the freedoms we have,” he said. “This wall is to show our appreciation to them for their service.”

Shannon Whitmore, the store’s asset protection manager, says the wall display has at times created some very moving moments.

“We have people come in and salute it,” Whitmore said.

“Once we had to move it because we were doing some painting. There was this one woman, she cried because she thought we were taking it down for good,” she said. “We have people standing here all the time watching the slide show.

“I’ve been to a lot of Walmart stores in the region and not one of them beside us have something like this. We blow people out of the water.”

Jacobs added one of those special moments he saw came when the display was down for the fresh coat of paint. A woman looked and started to cry.

“She said this was when she gets to visit her husband,” Jacobs said.

For a couple of store employees the wall display has some real personal meaning.

Amy Mead can look up and see photos of six family members, including her father and three grandfathers.

“Especially that one,” Mead said, while pointing to a picture of a grandfather who was there when the American flag was raised at Iwo Jima during World War II.

Wanda Luker has photos of her father, son and two brothers on the wall.

“I’m proud of it. If it wasn’t for these soldiers we wouldn’t have the freedom we do,” Luker said.

Whitmore echoes the invitation for people to bring in more photos of veterans.

“A lot of people know we do honor them, but we want to let everyone know that it’s here,” she said.

“We want people to bring in more photos. We want it to get a lot bigger.”