On July 4, the people speaking publicly about the man whose name is listed 237th among the more than 1,350 names placed on the Veterans Monument at Rotary Plaza all spoke with a common theme.
Jerry K. Crump, they said — a U.S. Army corporal, who was posthumously being honored with a statue of his likeness at the Cornelius landmark — would have much rather preferred his name be no more revered than the other hundreds of names that shared the monument with his.
Despite Crump’s humility toward his combat background, of which he rarely spoke, the town’s military veteran leaders felt the honors bestowed upon him as a result of his Korean War heroics made him the most worthy candidate to have a statue of his likeness complete the Veterans Monument’s construction.
Crump is one of only a handful of Mecklenburg County residents – past or present – to have received the Medal of Honor. He was also awarded the Purple Heart.
Now the bronze statue, which is 6 feet tall and sits on a 3-foot granite base, looks as if it standing guard over the names of the men and women who all served in one of the branches of the U.S. military, received an honorable discharge, and who lived in Cornelius at one time or another.
“It personalizes Cornelius in a way that we have a native son, a Medal of Honor winner, that represents all veterans,” said Mike Puckett, commander of American Legion Post 86. “On the base (of the statue), it says ‘honoring all veterans’. That’s what it’s designed to do. What better symbol to honor veterans than with someone who actually survived (in combat).”
Puckett, whose Post 86 was a strong supporter of the Veterans Monument, which was completed in 2011, and the addition of the Crump statue, says the local organization set out to portray a Korean War-era soldier with a statue, but did not have a specific soldier in mind. But when the artist commissioned to do the work, Utah-based Lena Toritch, said she “specialized in faces,” project leaders agreed selecting Crump’s likeness was a no-brainer.
Here’s the brief version of Crump’s story: In September 1951, Crump was serving Company L, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3d Infantry Division near Chorwon, Korea. With his platoon under attack, Crump inflicted numerous enemy casualties with his rifle and bayonet.
Crump protected four of his fellow soldiers by diving on a live grenade to absorb the blow. His act resulted in his own injuries, including the effects of the shrapnel that penetrated his body.
Crump and his wife Jane, and their daughters Theresa and Sheila twice lived in Cornelius including stretches from 1956-62 and in the early 1970s. Theresa remembered him being very involved in the community, including leading Davidson College’s ROTC program, and always lending a hand to a neighbor.
“We didn’t know he was a famous name in town because he really wasn’t,” said Theresa Schwab, who continued to make her home in Cornelius. “At least not to us. He was just dad.”
Added Sheila: “It wasn’t anything he ever talked about. We never knew the story until some of our other friends and cousins told us.”
Crump died in an automobile accident in 1977 at age 43, but those close to him feel it was because his heart stopped working as a result of the shrapnel that had always rested in his body.
Sheila married Lt. General Thomas C. Waskow, who led a distinguished military career. They currently live in Huntersville. Waskow was the keynote speaker at the Crump statue unveiling.
Former Cornelius Mayor Harold Little, who passed away in 2011, former Post 86 commander John Washam, and American Legion members Dee D’Oria and Gene McKinney were instrumental in the construction of the Veterans Monument and the Crump statue. All of their names are listed on the monument.
More 1,100 names were listed on the monument when it was first erected in 2011. Since then, 200 more have been added.
For a name to be considered for the monument, an online form can be completed at www.cornelius.org/236/Veterans-Monument-at-Rotary-Plaza. The deadline to submit a name for the veterans monument so that it can be placed on the wall on Veterans Day, 2017 is Oct. 1.
Joe Habina is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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