National POW/MIA Recognition Day Ceremony remembers the missing

COLUMBUS, Ind. — Columbus honored service men and women listed as missing or as prisoners of war at a solemn ceremony Friday night at the Bartholomew County Memorial for Veterans downtown.

Sandra LaBarbera and her brother, Ernest Walke Jr. were guest speakers for the National POW/MIA Recognition Day Ceremony on the Bartholomew County Courthouse grounds.

Inducted into the Army in 1943, Ernest Walke Sr. was with the force that liberated Paris in August 1944. However, he was later captured by the Germans and and became a POW.

Walke Sr. wasn’t the only member of his family to fight in that war. His four brothers also served:

Francis Walke, who was inducted in 1943 in the Army, landing during the second wave on D-Day.

Ralph Walke, an aerial gunner instructor who joined the Army in 1942.

Bernard Walke, a sailor aboard the U.S.S. Savannah when it was hit by a torpedo during the 1943 Battle of Salerno, Italy.

—Adelbert Walke, who was inducted into the Army in 1942 and served as both an engineer and gunner in Italy.

During their address, the siblings talked about their memories of growing up in Batesville with their father, who died on May 14, 1995, and their mother, Margaret Walke, who died in 2010.

The ceremony also included the reading of the 55 names of the military personnel from the Columbus area that were either declared POW, MIA or both.

The Columbus Indiana Children’s Choir performed, as did U.S. Marine and pastor Harvey Leggett.

Traditional honors were provided by the Bartholomew County Veterans Honor Guard and the Southern Indiana Pipes and Drums.

For more, see an upcoming edition of The Republic.