ASHBURN, GA (WALB) –The city of Ashburn has a new place to welcome visitors, a place that honors a true American hero. Today, Military officials and community leaders dedicated a park and welcome center in honor of Ashburn native and World War II hero Henry T. Elrod.
The land was donated to the city. When the building next door became available, the development authority bought it and turned it into a park and welcome center. The fire chief suggested a memorial for Henry T. Elrod, and the mayor says this seemed like the perfect opportunity.
He was born 105 years ago and died 69 years ago, but now Henry T. Elrod's legacy forever lives on in Ashburn. "Major Henry T Elrod was one of those great American heroes," said Major General James Kessler.
Today, relatives, members of the military, veterans, and even strangers came together to pay their respects and honor the Ashburn war hero during a special welcome center and park dedication ceremony. "Captain Elrod took it to the Japanese on Wake island he sunk a battleship shot down two planes, he was just out there giving them all he had," said Mayor Jim Hedges.
Keynote speaker, Major General James Kessler gave a detailed account of Elrod's heroic actions, while the Albany marine corp band played some of those acts of bravery with the family here it was just an incredibly emotional thing to do.
The ceremony was emotional for family members too, "I think when the guy was talking about the story of it came alive we've heard all the stories but it came alive when they did that," said Bonnie Reinhardt, relatives.
Major General Kessler says as he spoke to the audience, and looked out at all the faces in the crowd, he saw pure Americana. "I saw a slice of America here that is so well represented by small communities all over the country," said Kessler.
"To have such a small town with a huge turn out on a business day it renews your countries pride," said Gus Reinhardt, a relative of Elrod.
Other members of the military were asked to stand up during the touching ceremony.
Now in addition to Memorial day, and Veterans day, Ashburn has a place to honor war heroes every single day of the year.
Major General Kessler says communities coast to coast have their own heroes that help make America strong. He says his message to people not from area, is to seek out those heroes and remember them as well.
Henry T. Elrod received the medal of honor, The U.S. military's highest award for valor.
He's one of only 28 Georgia natives ever to receive that honor.