Column – As Memorial Day approaches, saluting another hero

Published 7:00 pm Tuesday, May 21, 2024

By Volpe Boykin

The day is coming soon when we honor those who have given their lives for our right to exist as a free country. Last year I highlighted Pvt. James Henry Johnson, a family friend, who gave his life at 18 years old fighting in Germany during World War II. 

This year I would like to highlight another ” forgotten hero” to have his name remembered. 

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On June 3, 1889, a son was born to Laura and Thomas A. Saunders, I am told somewhere near the town of Ivor. He was called Walter, and his given name was Alonzo Walter Saunders. 

When he was about 6 years old his mother died and his father later married his stepmother, Mary (maiden name I do not know). As he grew up it was obvious he was above average intelligence, he went to school to be a doctor and was successful in graduating and obtaining that high goal. He was a practicing physician and married but had no children. 

In 1917 after the start of World War I, he was drafted into the Army and obtained the rank of first lieutenant as a doctor. He was then assigned to the 319th Ambulance Company, 305th Sanitary Train, 80th Division American Expeditionary Force of the United States Army. I was told by one of his surviving relatives whom I met while I was visiting his grave that on Oct. 8, 1918, he was at a field hospital near the front lines in France treating wounded soldiers and remained even after the hospital came under heavy German artillery fire. He gave his life on that day doing his duty treating the wounded, killed by that artillery fire. He was 29 years old. 

He is buried in Antioch Church Cemetery near Windsor. He has a bright white obelisk with a flying American flag intricately carved on it. The wording states:


Dr. A Walter Saunders,

Son of T.A. & Laura A. Saunders

June 3,1889, 



I visit and clean his gravestone and, on the appropriate days, make sure an American flag is placed on his grave. Why do I do this? Because if not for him and young men like him who gave up promising lives and careers, I would not have the right to write this column, speak my mind or have any of the other freedoms I enjoy and sometimes take for granted. 

It’s easy for us all to say what our rights are. What we must also remember especially on Memorial Day is that those rights were certainly not free. They were purchased at the very high price of someone else’s life, the lives of many like Dr. A Walter Saunders who would never have children, celebrate holidays with his family or any of the other earthly things we enjoy. 

I am confident he is in the arms of Jesus, because they both gave their lives and suffered for those who are so undeserving of it: us.