Memorial set Saturday for Medal of Honor winner

Published on Saturday, 15 March 2014 23:43 - Written by Victor Texcucano vtexcucano@tylerpaper.com

Next Saturday will be a day of remembrance, as Army Maj. Gen. Travis E. Watkins, an East Texan Korean War soldier awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously, will be honored at noon at Gladewater Memorial Cemetery.

The memorial held by the Korean War Veterans Association, which coincides with National Medal of Honor Day, observed on March 25, has been held annually since 2008 on the Saturday closest to the holiday.

The Medal of Honor, which is the highest military honor, is awarded for gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty.

Watkins was born in Waldo, Ark., on Sept. 5, 1920, but his family moved to East Texas when he was young. He attended school in Troup.

He enlisted in the Army in 1939 and served during World War II, during which he was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions in the Battle of Guadalcanal.

Bobbie Perry, KWVA Chaoter 286 president, said the memorial’s purpose is to ensure that Watkins won’t be forgotten.

“(We hold the memorial so that people) never forget the cost of freedom,” he said.

Watkins has also been honored in other ways.

Watkins-Logan State Veterans Home in Tyler and U.S. Naval Ship Watkins are named in honor of him.

Perry also said the KWVA is in the process of petitioning to rename a section of Highway 80 that cuts through Gladewater after Watkins.

The memorial will feature the national anthem, sung by members of the ALERT (Air Land Emergency Resource Team) Academy, as well as the Korean national anthem, sung by members of the Tyler Korean Baptist Church.

Jason Branch, grandson of Watkins, will be the honored speaker.

Texas National Guard Maj. Gen. (ret.) John Furlow and Gladewater Mayor Harold Wells also will speak at the event.

A gun salute by a KWVA Chapter 286 team and a playing of “Taps” by Jack Fields will also be part of the ceremony.

Perry said in the past, the memorial has attracted a wide variety of veterans and he expects the same again this year.

He also said the Patriot Guard Riders, an organization that attends the funerals of service members, will be at the memorial.

Perry also said he hoped the memorial would serve to remind people of the Korean War, a war he said is often referred to as the “forgotten war” or the “forgotten victory.”