Heroes From the Heart of Virginia: Haden Laughlin

Laughlin shows memorial he built to Mark Kelly

Lynchburg, VA - The American Legion in Lynchburg is where veterans volunteer, fundraise and swap old war stories. But the organization for our veterans did not have a memorial to honor them until one{}hero from the heart of Virginia decided it was about time to build one.

"These guys are all heroes. All these guys," said Haden Laughlin, a Vietnam veteran.

For Laughlin, the American soldier is a special kind of person. The war memorials in Washington honor their valor, but those are far away; Lynchburg soldiers needed a tribute closer to home, and{}Laughlin was just the man to do it.

His idea was to build right at the American Legion so veterans like Jerry Goff can visit whenever they'd like and see their name on the list.

"Right there.{}Oh yeah, it surprised me the morning I{}saw it there," said Goff, pointing to his name enscribed on the memorial.

Laughlin calls the memorial he built{}"The Walk of Heroes." Name after name of soldiers who have served or are serving today. Every signature, Laughlin enscribed himself, in the cement, for eternity.

"When I started writing this, it was just people coming out here looking and looking and writing and writing,"{}said Laughlin.

The names wrap all around the American Legion. The very posts that support the American Legion building have a soldier's name at the base. There are so many now, Laughlin's lost count, but doesn't plan on stopping.

"This is a good place to put some names too," said Laughlin.

"It's good to know that the camaraderie here that people actually take the time to think that much of you to include you on the list of names," said Goff.

But one name,{}John Harper,{}stands out for Laughlin.

"It means a lot to me. I think about him all the time," said Laughlin when talking about his friend.

Laughlin served with John Harper a small moment in time, 8 months in Vietnam. The friendship's strong, even though Harper died more than four decades ago when the enemy shot down his helicopter.

Harper's one hero on this memorial Walk. Laughlin believes it's just a matter of time before there are many more.

"Well, I feel good that this will be carried on by the other veterans when we're dead and gone," said Laughlin.

Laughlin has a new idea for the memorial. For $25, you can buy a brick, put your veteran's name on it and honor him forever on the Walk of Heroes. Laughlin's presenting that idea to his fellow Legion members this week.

Learn more about The American Legion.