Freedom Beat Across America: In Search of America's Heartbeat

Day 16 — Love that French Broad

Well, it finally happened. I tried to get into the wrong hotel room. Tonight we’re in Room 127 – last night we were in Room 101. My apologies to the folks in 101. If it’s Tuesday, this must be Tennessee.

Great Smokey Mountains

Actually, we left Tennessee this morning and drove to North Carolina along the beautiful Great Smokey Mountains National Park. I don’t know which was more twisty, the road or the river, but according to the signs, we crossed the French Broad River several times. Even aside from the name, after passing her so many times, we developed quite a kindred spirit with that French Broad.
Just southeast of Charlotte we stopped to visit the future site of the North Carolina Korean War Memorial in Mint Hill. Although they do honor vets of any war, this will be the only stand-alone memorial for the Korean War. We had a wonderful talk with Don Putnam, a handsome young octogenarian who was a fighter pilot flying an F-14 over Korea. He told us he flew eighty-seven missions, was shot down and awarded the Purple Heart. Don has been the drive behind the building of this memorial for some years. It’s slated for completion no later than June 2012, and the construction and bulldozers were going full blast the whole time we were there. Don said the latest estimated cost is $500,000 and fund-raising events are ongoing to pay for the project. Folks wanting to help can buy pavers for the “Walkway of Remembrance”. These pavers vary in price from $200 to $1,000 and will contain from four lines to six lines of inscription honoring a particular veteran. The Federal government has not been able to help. The State government was at one time willing to help, but the economy has now made that impossible. The city of Mint Hill has donated a portion of the funding for the project and also given them the one-acre site for the memorial. Once it’s built, the city will take over full maintenance. The workers and laborers are all volunteer; materials are provided by local companies at cost. This idea began with seven or eight people and now counts above two hundred.

Don and Dottie

I was amazed to learn that the South Korean government has sent them a check for an amount well over $50,000 because they want to honor the American servicemen who helped their country.

For more information please visit or contact:

Billy J. Reid, Colonel USAF (Ret) at

Don G. Putnam, Capt USAF KW VET at

The memorial will have an open design through which people can walk. At each end will be a statue of an American soldier, one wearing a poncho, the other in class A uniform. The flags in this photo will be moved from their present position in a central part of Mint Hill Park to the memorial site.
Don told me that he is going to Korea in September at the expense of the South Korean government, again because they want to honor the vets of that war. His only expense will be some airfare. The South Korean government will pay for all meals and lodging.
It was such an enjoyable visit that we hated to leave, but we had people waiting in Savannah. As Melissa turned off the video camera to pack it up, Don asked, “How do you take the lens cover off?” The look on her face was priceless.


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2 thoughts on “Day 16 — Love that French Broad

  1. I’ve been told the F-14 didn’t fly until the seventies, so obviously I got the number wrong. My apologies to Don Putnam for not checking with him! Anyway, he was a fighter pilot.

  2. Okay, Don says it was an F-84 E “Thunderjet” .

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