Southside Virginia: Home of Heroes

In January 2019, Lieutenant General Joseph Inge, who serves on the Virginia War Memorial Foundation Board, became aware that there was a tendency for many Virginians to mistakenly apply the nomenclature “Southside Virginia” to other areas in the Commonwealth. As a native son of Mecklenburg County, he hoped to find a way to clear up this confusion and bring needed visibility to the military contributions and numerous veteran heroes of Virginia’s Southside.  He enlisted the help of his sister, Joyce Inge French, retired executive director of Southside Planning District Commission to research and find possible solutions to achieve that objective.  Colonel Ted Daniel, retired Town Manager of South Boston, Virginia was quickly enlisted to join this endeavor.

After visiting the Virginia War Memorial in March and studying available opportunities to highlight Southside Virginia as a major contributor to the Commonwealth’s war time efforts, Ms. French and Col. Daniel determined that obtaining sponsorship of the Memorial’s Walkway of Honor would offer an extremely visible representation for the counties, city and towns of Southside.  As stated so eloquently by the caretakers of the Virginia War Memorial, “through the stories of those who served, the nation’s leading state War Memorial honors Virginia’s fallen and preserves the past.” Southside Virginia heroes from World War II through subsequent conflicts have a story to be told and through this sponsorship that could accomplished.  To undertake this initiative would be highly challenging but doable.

The businesses and citizens would have to raise $100,000.00 for a contribution to the Virginia War Memorial Foundation in exchange for the right to be the sponsor of the Walkway of Honor. Ms. French and Col. Daniel, understanding the deep patriotism of the citizens of Mecklenburg, Halifax and Pittsylvania counties, decided to take on the challenge and committed to the initiative in February 2019.

One of the first hurdles faced was to properly introduce Southside Virginia to the members of the War Memorial Foundation and secondly, to gain publicity and local support for this lofty initiative.  Two events were held in June 2019 recognizing WWII veterans on the occasion of the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings at Normandy. On June 4th a dinner and reception was held in Chase City followed by a similar event on June 6th in Halifax County, both events to honor WW II veterans.  Finally, in November a Veterans Day dinner and reception was hosted in Danville for World War II and other veterans of Pittsylvania County and the City of Danville.  At each of these events, Virginia War Memorial Foundation Board Members were in attendance to recognize and honor Southside Virginia veterans.

Throughout 2019 and 2020, fund raising efforts continued. The goal of $100,000 was finally reached in August 2020. All funds contributed by Southside Virginia patrons went directly to the Foundation for sponsorship of the Walkway of Honor. All costs associated with the fundraising and reception events were covered by Ms. French and Col. Daniel. 

Lieutenant General Inge’s goal for increased visibility and knowledge of Southside Virginia’s contributions to America’s war efforts in World War II, and subsequent fights, goes far beyond his basic love for his home county and region.  As the son of a tobacco farmer, he knows the character, morals and ideals of the young men and women sent to war from our Southside counties. He is aware that their loss in military conflict is still our continuing loss today. One can only imagine the contributions these young men and women would have provided had they lived to come home.  In light of this, the story of how Southside answered the call in World War II and subsequent wars needs to be properly recognized at our State War Memorial.  Southside Virginia’s sponsorship of The Walkway of Honor goes a long way in securing that recognition for generations to come.

As one enters the courtyard area from the Galanti Center, they see the Memory Shrine on the right and the amphitheater entrance on the left. Straight ahead, the beginning of the Walkway of Honor is announced by a large Southside Virginia granite stone and marker. The first three sections of memorial bricks to be laid in this beautiful brick footpath are reserved for Southside veterans and supporters. 

The memory of Southside’s veterans will be etched forever on the bricks placed at the forefront of the Virginia War Memorial’s Walkway of Honor; the visibility our region and its patriots so richly deserve.  To date, 65 bricks have been ordered which honor our veteran heroes.  Anyone wishing to add the name of their special veteran to this Walkway may contact Joyce French at jf.frenchconnection@gmail.com or Ted Daniel at southsideveterans@gmail.com.  As Veterans Day approaches, this is an opportune time to ensure that the Southside sections of this impressive Walkway are filled and that the names of our veterans are forever spoken as visitors to the Memorial walk along and read aloud the bricks which represent each of our heroes.