Historic Markers Across Georgia

Military Service Walk

Marker ID:  
Location: on Woodruff Riverfront Park, Columbus, GA
County: Muscogee
Coordinates: N 32° 27.866    W 084° 59.808
  32.46443333    -84.9968
Style: Mounted **
Waymark: None


Military Service Walk

This Military Service Walk began as a project in the 2013 Servant Leadership course in the Organizational Leadership Master’s degree program at Columbus State University. This walk was created to honor and express appreciation for the service and sacrifices made by our country’s military men and women and their loved ones. The letter excerpts that are included here all have a special connection to our local area.

To all those who have served or are currently serving in the armed forces of the United States, we salute you and thank you. To the families and friends of those killed in action, no words can convey our deep sense of appreciation and sympathy for your loss. May this Military Service Walk always serve as reminder so that we never forget that “Freedom is not free.”

God Bless America and all those who serve our great country.

“For him who is spared, life will always be sweeter. For him who in sacrifice must need give his life to further the interest of his country – and by country I mean home, loved ones and the principles for which his nations stands – this man I can conceive of no death more glorious.”

First Lieutenant George William Mathews
82nd Infantry Division, 327th Brigade, F Company
U.S. Army, 1918


This letter was written by G.J. Peackock to Henry R. Goetchius, both of Columbus, Georgia. Peacock had been a Lieutenant in the Confederate Army in the Second Georgia Battalion and wrote about the death of Goetchius' brothers, John and Edward.

March 11, 1898
Columbus, Georgia

Dear Sir,

Complying with your request, I give my recollection of the facts regarding the death of your brothers, John and Edward, members of our company, "the City Light Guards," Second Georgia Battalion.

John, who was always ready for duty - a zealous, faithful and gallant soldier - fell at Gettysburg, mortally wounded, but lingered a few days in the hands of the Federals.
Edward, who combined the gentleness of woman with the courage of a dauntless cavalier, was killed in a charge of the enemy's works in front of Petersburg, Virginia, 22nd June, 1864. The enemy's works were retained but a few hours, and some of our dead and wounded fell into their hands, notwithstanding our ambulance corps (who) worked so earnestly. Edward was one of those left upon that fateful day, in the enemy's hands.

Very truly, G.J. Peacock

John Goetchius, Confederate Army
Date of Birth 1841

Killed in Action 1863

Edward Goetchius, Confederate Army
Date of Birth 1843
Killed in Action 1864

Goetchius Family collection (MC 292)-Columbus State University Archives-Columbus, Georgia


Rudy Quillian sent this letter to his daughter, Sally, whom he never met.

April 29, 1943

My Dear Sally,
The reason for this letter is that because of the business I'm engaged in, it is possible that I may never get to see you. If that should be the case, I want to at least leave you one or two of my ideas...If you been born a boy, I would be full of fatherly advice and I would encourage you to grow up to be a good soldier like I hope your father will prove to be. Since you are a girl, of which I am glad, I will leave all the advice for your mother to give you because she is better qualified to advise you than I am...I hope you will grown up to be like the two women who are the finest in the world, your mother and mine.
If I do get to see you this letter is pointless and should be destroyed, but if I shouldn't, I want you to know how I feel and the reason for it. We are living in a time now when soldiers must be willing to die for their country or else we won't have a country. I won't go into detail because you will read it all in your history books... of course I'm willing to die if necessary. I have under my command some of the best and bravest soldiers in the world.
Always remember that you have a fine and honorable name - all three of them.

Love - except for your mother's share,
PS: This is the first time I've thought of what I want you to call me. I like "Pop" after Pop Ansley.

Lieutenant Colonel Amzi Rudolph "Rudy" Quillian, U.S. Army
Date of Birth 09-12-1911
Killed in Action 08-04-1944

Quillian-Ansley-Gates Collection, MC 180 - Columbus State University Archives - Columbus, Georgia


John Merritt sent this letter to his father, Shadrick T. Merritt, of Moselle, Mississippi.

September 23, 1944

Peleliu Island, Palau

Dearest Dad,

Well, I'm back in the fight again. Everything goes as well as could be expected on this damn place. I will tell
you I have been in some hot spots and had a few close calls. I was in the landing on Peleliu Island in Palau....Dad, though war is mostly hell we do have to laugh some... It may take me all day to finish this because there are a few stray bullets flying around and I duck each time one whistles.
Dad, when you and I get together we'll have lots of things to talk over. Each day adds new experiences. Dad, I was telling about some close calls... I have seen men here who didn't know what fear was. It is those that win battles for us.

Your loving son,

John T.

Corporal John T. Merritt, U.S. Marine Corps

Date of Birth 01-10-1922

Killed in Action 10-07-1944


This letter was written by Staff Sergeant Paul Norman to Gayner Loop's father confirming the death of his son.

April 29, 1945

Dear Mr. Loop,

Gayner was hit at about 10:00 a.m. Sunday, March 18th and died almost instantly, never knowing what happened. He was killed by a piece of shrapnel that entered his neck and head. Those of us who were in the aid station with him tried to do what we could but it was of no avail as the large artery in his neck was severed. Before being killed, your son proved himself a very brave boy. On the morning of the 18th we jumped off and went to our appointed positions under heavy fire. Later, at about 8:00 a.m., it was found necessary to go back some few hundred yards for medical equipment and Gayner was one of those who volunteered to go.
It may be of some satisfaction to you to know that the engagement in which your son was killed was part of the breakthrough that enabled the Third Army to go to the Rhine. It was very costly but at least not in vain.
A letter such as this is very difficult to write for Gayner's loss to us is still very real and I realize how deep the hurt must be to you and his mother. He was always talking of you both and always had your pictures out wherever we stopped.


Paul Norman

TEC5 Gayner Loop, U.S. Army

Date of Birth 06-22-1924

Killed in Action 03-18-1945


Jerry Laird sent this letter to his daughter, Lisa.

November 16, 1968

Dear Lisa,
Soon it will be your birthday; you will be four years old. Both mother and daddy are proud of you for helping with her while daddy is away from home…Lisa, daddy thinks about you and mother very often. I am most happy to have you and mother as my two girls.

Major Jerry P. Laird, U.S. Army
Date of Birth 01-04-1936
Killed in Action 01-22-1969

November 2013
Columbus, Georgia

My father served and was killed in Vietnam, January 22, 1969. I was only four years old at the time and my parent’s only child…He was a wonderful loving father, husband, and soldier. I have had the privilege of meeting several of the men he served with and feel truly blessed to say I am his daughter.

Lisa Laird Morris


Bruce Hollingshead sent this letter to his family.

June 24, 1983

Beirut, Lebanon

There were no casualties luckily but a lot of nerves were shaken. The LAF (Lebanese Armed Forces) left and we went back to normal operations. Nobody went to bed because of the adrenaline that was flowing from being so close to fighting. I resumed my watch and all the other Marines sat around and talked or wrote letters... Boy, one thing this ain't been, is a boring trip! We've had Russian subs, Russian jets attack, car bombs, artillery, hit in the CP (Command
Post), an earthquake, two tornadoes (did you know about them?), a hijacked plane, Israeli tanks, and blasted with bullets! And it's only been five weeks!

Lance Corporal Bruce Alan Hollingshead, U.S. Marine Corps

Date of Birth 05-13-1964

Killed in Action 10-23-1983


Billy Stelpflug sent this letter to his parents.

September 7, 1983

Beirut, Lebanon

I am alive and well. Maybe a little dirty, tired and shell-shocked, but walkign and talking...it worries me to know that y'all worry about me more than I worry about me....I won't go out of the way to be a hero or anything, like that...Thinking of home.

Love you all very much,

Lance Corporal Bill "Billy" J. Stelpflug, U.S. Marine Corps
Date of Birth 03-13-1964
Killed in Action 10-23-1983

This letter was written by Carlyce J. McClendon to Peggy Stelpflug, mother of Billy Stelpflug.

September 10, 2013
Gulfport, Mississippi

Dear Mrs. Stelpflug,
Your questions concerning the validity of the mission on which he (your son) was sent, touched me to write this letter. As a simple man, I cannot hope to justify the mission, but I hope you can take some measure of comfort that your son has had a direct bearing on improving the lives of people he never met, me included.... It was this attack that compelled me to enlist in the Marine Corps...Every good thing that has happened to me since that time, professionally and personally, has been a direct result of my having joined the Marines...I sincerely hope that as the anniversary of your loss approaches, you will think not only of the lives lost, but of all the lives that were changed that day. I am only one, of what must surely be many, who are indebted to your son for an awakening to a larger world, a keener awareness of duty and serving a higher purpose.

All the best,
C.J. McClendon


Mike Newton sent this email to his family.

March 2, 2011

For any reason over the next 359 days (I'm trying not to count) we have a hard time communicating...If any of you want to battle it but for my conditional love I will kindly accept any type of letter, package, etc. that will boost my morale and make my stay in the nice, wonderful, wasteland that is Afghanistan, more pleasant.
It's always a pleasure and I'm thinking of you all dearly (most of the time...all right, all the time). Take care and God bless.

Captain Michael "Mike" W. Newton
U.S. Army

Date of Birth 05-29-1981

Killed in Action 06-11-2011

This was the last e-mail exchange between Benjamin Park and his sister, Irene Park. Benjamin Park died in Kandahar, Afghanistan, of injuries sustained from an improvised explosive device attack - three days before his 26th birthday.

June 14, 2010


Don't worry. If anything happens to me you guys will be notified pretty quick...Please send me gummy bears. I don't take showers a lot. We go at least two weeks without showering. I've taken only two showers since I've been in Afghanistan, but yeah...things are ok. It's kind of been pretty crazy...yeah, it sucks. Tell mom and dad that I love them. Please make sure that MC is taken care of. I know you are pretty busy, but please do all that you can for him. There are a lot of dogs here wandering around, they remind me of MC. I miss him a lot. Well, I got to go. Take care of yourself and let everyone know that I am doing ok. Miss you and love you.

Private First Class Benjamin J. Park

Date of Birth 06-21-1984
Killed in Action 06-18-2010

Erected 2013 by Servant Leadership course in the Organizational Leadership Master’s degree program at Columbus State University.

A photo of this marker can be found on HMDB.org