By MARY THERESE GRIFFIN, Special to the Bulletin | Published December 12, 2019
MONROE—Last year, St. Anna Church in Monroe honored the military veterans of the congregation with a Wall of Honor. The Knights of Columbus Council #14425 built four wooden panels to display more than 200 photos.
The wall drew much interest, and the faces of those servicemen and women featured on the panels increased this year to 286.
“It’s only right that we recognize our veterans as we are able to live like we do and worship like we do because of them,” said Father Daniel Toof, pastor of St. Anna.
One of St. Anna’s deacons, John Duffield, a Navy veteran who spent years as a nuclear engineer on the submarine U.S.S. Thomas Jefferson, knows the importance of recognizing veterans.
“This wall of honor shows these men and women when they served and there is a story in every one of them. I think this is great for the teenagers of our parish to learn about dedication and sacrifice,” said Duffield.
Like his fellow veterans, Duffield knows much about dedication and sacrifice.
“I think my captain really wanted me to stay out at sea and become an executive officer in a command, but my kids learned to ride bikes and I wasn’t there. I think of all the Christmases I missed. I think if they gave me shore duty I would have stayed in,” said the deacon. He resigned his commission after 11 years to be with his family.
Julianna Minton, 21, sees more than pictures on the Wall of Honor, which was on display for two November weekends at the parish as part of a Veterans Day service.
“I see not only the men and women in our military who have sacrificed their lives to protect us, but I also see my family—my church family who have let us live in freedom,” said Minton.
One of those church members is her father, John Minton, who is retired from the United States Marine Corps.
“This also lets me and others in our parish see our men and women in uniform and allows us to show our love and appreciation for them,” she said.
Grand Knight Wiley Stokes, of St. Anna’s Knights of Columbus council, grew up in a military family as his father was career Air Force.
Stokes says the wall has a connection to all in some way, shape or form. He hopes other churches in the community will follow suit by organizing similar tributes.
“Everybody knows somebody that served; take a piece of what we did at St. Anna’s and carry it forward and spread it around,” said Stokes.
Father Toof agrees wholeheartedly.
“I recommend other folks imitate us because we had a good idea and the best ideas should be shared. Everyone could benefit by honoring the military like we do,” he said.
Father Toof has a profound respect for the military as his father and uncle both served. The creation and growth of the Wall of Honor helped discover more commonality within his congregation.
“It brought us together as a community sharing our love for our country and those who fought for it. It brought the past back to life and made us realize how blessed we are,” said the pastor.
This year’s wall honors Gold Star families. It’s a distinction no military family wants, but it’s important to St. Anna’s community to offer love and respect to 12 such families identified with a connection to the parish.
“We are highlighting those veterans on the wall with a Gold Star indicating they were killed in action and their families are being recognized as Gold Star families,” said retired Air Force Col. Bob Griffin, the 2019 chairman of the Wall of Honor project.
The Wall of Honor remained in the narthex until Nov. 25. The Knights of Columbus plan to make the wall an annual tradition.