SUMMERVILLE — Members of St. Theresa the Little Flower Church dedicated a new granite monument recently to honor veterans who served to protect our nation.
Msgr. Edward D. Lofton’s name is etched into the black stone that stands 8.5 feet tall by 5 feet wide. The priest is one of 287 names listed alphabetically with corresponding military branch of armed service. Veterans, living or not, who were honorably discharged from service, were eligible for inclusion on the monument. Ranks were not listed.
“All honorable service is important no matter what the rank,” said Msgr. Lofton, who served in the U.S. Air Force near Sumter from 1968-1972.
His eyesight prevented him from flying during the Vietnam War though he later was able to obtain a private and commercial license and was offered a job with the Federal Aviation Administration.
“Military people know how to serve,” said Msgr. Lofton. “There’s a natural tie to faith.”
The veterans monument project began about 18 months ago when the Knights of Columbus at the church decided to act on an idea they had talked about for years. The monument would honor the parish and its deep roots in the military community. The motto for the Knights of Columbus Assembly 3009 and Council 11910 is “Patriotism Then. Patriotism Now. Patriotism Forever.”
The connection between faith and patriotism is renewed with each recitation of the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, said Joe Valentino, chairman of the monument project. The original pledge, written in 1892, was revised in 1954 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed legislation initiated by the Knights of Columbus. The pious reference remains a point of controversy and “we’ve been defending it ever since,” Valentino said.
The monument project committee solicited names from the parish but once word went out into the community, enthusiasm spread. For each name, a $100 donation was made to the church. With nearly 300 names, the donations exceeded the cost of building and installing the monument, which was made by Picture This on Granite, a company with offices in Vermont and Canada.
“It looks stunning,” said Greg Mueller, faithful navigator of the Knights of Columbus. “We were struck by the sheer beauty of the craftsmanship. All of us were really blown away. It’s a gorgeous monument. It’s a small token of our appreciation for all those who served to protect us.”
Manny Jimenez, a Citadel graduate and a Knight at the church, said a full U.S. Navy color guard and members of each branch of service highlighted the special flag-folding ceremony that took place that day. Jimenez said his name and the names of four other relatives are also etched into the monument.
By Rhesa Versola / Special to The Catholic Miscellany
Top photo, Miscellany/Doug Deas: Msgr. Edward Lofton speaks during the dedication of a new veterans monument sponsored by the Knights of Columbus at St. Theresa the Little Flower Church in Summerville on Sept. 11. At right is Joe Valentino, past faithful navigator of Knights of Columbus Assembly 3009 and chairman of the monument project.