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Iowa’s ‘garden of stone’ welcomes a hero

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Iowa’s ‘garden of stone’ welcomes a hero

May 27, 2024 | 6:30 am ET
By Patrick Kinney
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Iowa’s ‘garden of stone’ welcomes a hero
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Graves at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery in Adel. (Photo by Pat Kinney)
Iowa’s ‘garden of stone’ welcomes a hero
an American flag whips in the wind above the Iowa Veterans Cemetery. (Photo by Pat Kinney)

ADEL — It was probably appropriate Larry Walters was laid to rest by his friends on a windy day.
All the flags at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery seemed to stand at attention, shoulders to the wind and completely unfurled, in tribute to a guy who stood tall and proud in his service, in and out of uniform. And the gray clouds gave way as the cemetery’s gardens of stone were drenched in sunlight.

It was a most peaceful and pastoral setting — a fitting place for Larry Walters or anyone else who has spent time in war or stood the watch for liberty.

Walters, 80, who passed away March 12 after struggling with dementia, was a Vietnam combat veteran from Cedar Falls who also served for 36 years in the Iowa National Guard, as a helicopter mechanic at the Guard air aviation facility north of the Waterloo airport.

He served 366 days in Vietnam in 1967-68 as a heavy machine gunner in the U.S. Army 1st Cavalry Division. He was involved in Operation Pegasus in the relief of embattled Marines at Khe Sanh. He received a Bronze Star, among other decorations.

Iowa’s ‘garden of stone’ welcomes a hero
Larry Walters (Photo courtesy of Walters’ obituary)

In civilian life, Walters helped reestablish and revitalize the Cedar Falls Veterans of Foreign Wars post; helped preserve the historic rural German Burial Ground cemetery and landmark rural Bennington Township School No. 4 northeast of Waterloo; and helped initiate a wheelchair ramp project for disabled veterans, mainly with veteran volunteers.

In 2015, he and a committee of Vietnam veterans also helped plan what is now a permanent Vietnam exhibit at the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum in Waterloo’s Grout Museum District. The effort was recognized by the Iowa Tourism Council.

A busload of family, friends, fellow veterans, an escort of motorcycle riders and additional mourners in private vehicles accompanied Larry’s remains on a final journey of 150 miles.

Iowa’s ‘garden of stone’ welcomes a hero
Iowa Army National Guard soldiers perform flag-folding rites at the service for Larry Walters at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery in Adel, with Walters’ urn at left and an honor guard rifle squad at parade rest in the background (Photo by Pat Kinney)

It was a fitting tribute to a man who had gone the extra mile for so many.

The Iowa Veterans Cemetery was dedicated in 2008 on 100 acres of land provided by two donors in rural Adel. It is just south of Interstate 80 in Dallas County between West Des Moines and De Soto.

The Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs raised funds for the cemetery and it was authorized by the Iowa Legislature in 2005. More information about the cemetery, including history and eligibility, can be found here.

It provided a fitting vista for the simple, poignant, intimate final tribute to Larry Walters — in the spring beauty of Iowa’s fruited plain.

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Patrick Kinney’s blog, View from the Cedar Valley, is on Substack. This column is republished  through the Iowa Writers’ Collaborative.

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