Last Christmas, Nicholas Doll of Lee’s Summit found the perfect gift for his grandfather Ken Doll: a granite brick at the National World War I Museum and Memorial’s Walk of Honor.
“It just seemed fitting,” Nicholas Doll said. “He loves to leave his mark.”
Ken Doll, of Blue Springs, enlisted in the Navy during the Korean War. The 84-year-old said he got to see the world while working his way up to lieutenant junior grade. But his service came with sacrifices: Doll didn’t see his first son until he was 3 months old.
On Monday, Ken Doll sat between his grandson and his wife of 64 years, Jean Doll, at the Walk of Honor dedication ceremony in the museum’s J.C. Nichols Auditorium.
More than 100 bricks were dedicated during the somber yet celebratory ceremony, which featured remarks by retired Rear Adm. Stanton Thompson and retired Col. John Folsom.
Thompson, a Vietnam veteran, read aloud the number of killed, wounded and missing military members from all the major U.S. wars since World War I. He also told the audience how much the words “thank you” means to veterans.
“There’s nothing more satisfying than hearing the words ‘Thank you for your service,’” Thompson said. “Also, we like hugs.”
Folsom, founder of the Nebraska-based nonprofit organization Wounded Warriors Family Support, talked about the challenges he faced running a remote base in Iraq. Folsom also thanked the veterans and their families for spending Memorial Day remembering fallen soldiers.
“I look upon you as those who will keep the memories of those who passed before us alive,” Folsom said.
Earlier in the day, U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver spoke to a crowd of hundreds at the base of the Liberty Memorial, which was officially designated the National World War I Museum and Memorial in December.
In an impassioned speech, Cleaver talked about the importance of memories and said the Liberty Memorial is a monument to those who sacrificed their lives for their country and for those who have lost loved ones to war.
“We owe it to them to never forget what this stands for,” Cleaver said.
Kansas City Mayor Sly James also spoke at Monday’s ceremony. James, who served in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War era, said in his speech that Memorial Day “isn’t just another holiday.”
Members of the military, James said, “fought for us to have freedom. They fought to make sure that the American dream didn’t die.”
The mayor added that the best way to honor their sacrifice is by caring for the poor and sick and working to solve problems such as low voter turnout and what he called a “failing” education system. The mayor’s speech ended with a call for unity and was followed by a standing ovation.
Around 25,000 people visited the National World War I Museum and Memorial over the holiday weekend, according to marketing and communications manager Mike Vietti. Many came to see the American Veterans Traveling Tribute’s replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Larry Daugherty of Lenexa, a Vietnam veteran, posed for a photo in front of the wall, which was set up on the museum’s south lawn.
As a helicopter pilot and flight leader in the 1st Cavalry Division, Daugherty experienced many combat assaults. He said he knew many of the men whose names are etched on the wall.
“It took many years before I could go to the one in Washington, D.C.,” Daugherty said.
Across the lawn from the wall stood a Bell UH-1 Iroquois “Huey” helicopter just like the one Daugherty piloted in Vietnam.
Phil Greco of Independence and Mike Martinez of Raytown were inside the same helicopter when it was shot down in Vietnam.
Greco said the helicopter was about 20 feet from the ground when the blade was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.
“The body of the chopper started spinning,” Greco said.
The crash killed the door gunner and co-pilot, but Greco and Martinez, the helicopter’s crew chief, walked away with bruises. Martinez said he was flooded with emotion when he saw the helicopter again after so many years.
“It’s tough at first,” the veteran said. “But you have to overcome it.”