American Legion Post 197 hosted the Memorial Day program on the courthouse square and honored fallen hero Corporal Jeffrey D. Walker who gave the ultimate sacrifice during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“I am thankful for the men and women who paid the ultimate sacrifice for us to be able to gather peaceably as we are today, to vote in free elections, to speak and worship without fear. With a grateful heart, I am truly thankful for those who sacrificed for our life and liberty. Freedom was never free,” said District 135 state Rep. Beth Camp during opening remarks.
Jeffery’s biography was shared during the special Memorial Day program.
“We recognize, honor and pay tribute to a Pike County service member who gave the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq supporting America’s war on terrorism. Lance Corporal Jeffrey Walker was killed in action on May 14, 2007. This is the 15th anniversary of America’s loss and very fitting that we honor him this Memorial Day,” said Post 197’s Bryan Richardson. “Jeffrey Davis Walker was born June 12, 1985 to James and Teresa Walker in Macon. He is the middle child, between sisters Kelly Lynn and Kasey Nicole. In August 1999, he moved to Williamson. He attended The Rock Tabernacle Church in Griffin and Pike County Middle School at that time. During high school, he worked in the afternoons at Dairy Queen in Zebulon and part time for his step-father, Michael Rutledge doing heavy equipment grading. Jeffrey loved to work on cars, sketch and rollerblade. He graduated May 28, 2004 from Pike County High School. At 19, Jeffrey enlisted in the Marines on Sept. 1, 2004. Around mid-August 2005, Jeffrey’s Battalion deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom as part of the 2d Force Service Support Group (Forward) of the 2d Marine Expeditionary Force. The Transportation Support Company was tasked to provide direct support of medium and heavy transportation to resupply infantry units located in bases throughout the region. The Battalion deployed through Kuwait to Camp Al Asad. Al Asad Air Base was the second largest U.S. Air Base in Iraq at the time which was the main logistics hub for the northern Iraq region. Corporal Walker supported three major operations: Operation Rivergate in October 2005, Operation Steel Curtain in November 2005, and Operation Liberty Express II from October to December 2005. During this deployment, Corporal Walker’s platoon conducted over 100 Combat Logistics Patrols.”
On Dec. 15, 2006, Jeffrey’s son Conner Wesley Walker was born. Jeffrey was able to take leave during Christmas 2006 to see his newly born son, and then in early February prior to his unit’s deployment.
The Battalion as part of the 2d Marine Logistics Group (Forward) of the 2d Marine Expeditionary Force deployed on Feb. 22, 2007 as part of the directed “Surge” of U.S. forces to Iraq. The unit’s main body – including Corporal Walker – arrived in Kuwait, and then traveled by C-17 transport aircraft to Al Taqaddum Air Base in Al Anbar Province in western Iraq. The Battalion further deployed by vehicles and helicopters to Camp Fallujah located just outside the southeastern portion of the city of Fallujah. Normally, Corporal Walker was the machine gunner for the Commander’s vehicle during logistics convoy patrols. However, on May, 14, 2007, Corporal Walker was tasked to drive a Logistics Vehicle System configured with three 900-gallon pods in support of a water resupply mission to the Fallujah Development Center, a small compound which had a small infantry security element from the RCT. The development center was located approximately 3km northwest of Camp Fallujah. Corporal Walker’s vehicle was part of a nine-vehicle Battalion combat logistics patrol. The patrol was inside the compound conducting water resupply to the on-site Infantry element. At 12:05 p.m. local time, Corporal Walker was on top of a water pod attempting to start the pump, when he was hit in the head by an enemy sniper’s bullet. The sniper was later determined to have been located in a nearby hospital in the city of Fallujah northwest of the development center. Corporal Walker was evacuated to the Fallujah Surgical Facility within Camp Fallujah and at 12:45 p.m., died of his wound. He was a month short of turning 22 years of age. As a result of several enemy sniper actions, the RCT initiated intensified counter-sniper operations. Corporal Walker’s enemy sniper is believed to have been killed. Corporal Walker was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart Medal and Iraq Campaign Medal with bronze star for his second tour. He had previously been awarded the Navy Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Service Medal, Iraq Campaign Medal first award, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon. Lance Corporal Jeffrey D. Walker is buried in the Veteran’s Section of the Oak Hill Cemetery in Griffin. The chapel at Camp Al Taqaddum, Iraq was dedicated as the Walker Memorial Chapel. In addition, his name has been added to the Pike County Veterans Memorial on the Courthouse Square. Jeffrey was the first candidate to be inducted into the Pike County Memorial Annex in Zebulon, Georgia of now 33 Pike County service members and first responders killed in the line of duty.”
In addition to hearing from Teresa Pinner and her daughter Kelly Murry about Jeffery, the program identified Blue Star families as those who currently have a family member in active service, Silver Star families as those who have been injured in service and Gold Star families as those whose loved one gave up their life during combat.
Jeffrey Walker’s Gold Star family members in attendance included his mom Teresa Pinner, his son Conner Walker, his younger sister Kasey Walker, his niece Grace Murray, his grandparents Frances Durham, his aunt Susan Clark, his cousin Jordan Johnson and his mom’s husband Scott Pinner.
Post 197 Commander Paul Chatterton presented Legion Coins to Teresa, Kelly and Connor.
“Teresa and Kelly, may God bless you as you continue to go through life as a Gold Star mother and sister cherishing the great memories of Jeffrey. Thank you for reminding us here today of what Memorial Day is all about,” said commander Chatterton. “Conner, your grandmother and family have done an amazing job continuing the legacy of your father who is an American hero and died while defending our freedoms. The community will do its best to continue to honor your father; however, it will be up to you to continue your father’s legacy, so that we all never forget. May God bless you as you continue in life.”
The names of 33 veterans from Pike County who passed away since last Memorial Day were read by Post 197 Legionnaire Talena Smith during the program as a bell was rang for each by Melissa Patten. Five of them were members of Post 197.
Three new names were unveiled on the Pike County Veterans Memorial monument, including Army Private Ernest Ross from the New Hope area who died in France during WWI, Army Sergeant Cebran Willis from the Lifsey Springs area who died in France during WWII and Army Private First Class Martin Eppinger from Zebulon who died in Korea during the Korean War.
The ceremony was closed with the laying of the wreath at the Veteran’s Memorial by Teresa, Kelly and Conner, Rep. Beth Camp and Commander Chatterton. Taps was played by PCHS sophomore Will Busby for all those listed on the Pike monument, the veterans who passed away since the previous Memorial Day and all who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.