By Bill Moss, Published: October 5, 2018 - Hendersonville Lightning
A born soldier, Matthew T. Bolar died doing what a soldier does. Fighting the war. He was killed on May 4, 2007, in Iraq. There wasn’t much doubt what Matthew would become when he grew up, said his mother, Anne Adkins.“The first toys he wanted were toy soldiers, and then tanks,” she said. “His favorite channel when he was young was ‘The History Channel.’ It’s like he was born with some sort of interest in defending the country and the history of people who defended the country, plus his grandfathers were both in the war,” serving in World War II. At the orientation on Saturday for this weekend’s Blue Ridge Honor Flight to Washington, Adkins, who lives in Flat Rock, was the only one wearing a nametag that said Gold Star Mother. When she attended a fundraiser for HonorAir, the Veterans Healing Farm and WNC Military History Museum last spring, she met Jeff Miller, the cofounder of HonorAir. He invited her to go on Saturday’s flight as a guest of the organization.“I said, ‘I’m a civilian.’ He said, ‘You’re not a civilian. You gave your son to this country.’ Just a wonderful wonderful man,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it, I still can’t.”
After Sept. 11, Bolar, then 19, wanted to join the service. His mom encouraged him to finish college but he was eager to serve. When he turned 21 he joined the Army.
Before he deployed to Iraq the first time, “he wanted to go to New York and the first place he wanted to go was the 09/11 (memorial),” she said. “He went and he stared at the destruction for a long time. And then he turned to me and he hugged me and he said, ‘You know, Mama, there are things worth dying for, my family and my country.’ He died where he wanted to be, doing what he wanted to do.” He came home safe from his first deployment and soon was scheduled to go back.
“I said, ‘Why are you going so quickly?’ He said, ‘Well, they’re asking the single guys first. And if I go, then somebody that has a family won’t have to.’”
Deployed with the 25th Infantry Division out of Fort Richardson, Alaska, Cpl. Bolar died when an improvised explosive device blew up near his unit during combat operations in Baghdad. He was 24.
Bolar had once said he hoped one day to shake hands with the commander in chief. His stepfather, Vernon Adkins, told President George W. Bush the story in a letter. About a week later, Bush invited the couple to the White House “so he could shake our hands in lieu of Matthew,” Anne said. “We were the only parents there.”
A couple of years after her only son died, Adkins quit her marketing job at Raycom Media Inc. and plunged fulltime into charity work for veterans. She helps the Veterans Healing Farm in Etowah, among organizations, and had always admired HonorAir, which has flown tens of thousands of World War II veterans to Washington to see the WWII memorial and other memorials.
Blue Ridge Honor Flight has now expanded to include Korean War and Vietnam War veterans. Saturday’s flight is notable because it’s the first flight of mostly Vietnam War veterans. The flight includes 104 Vietnam veterans, many of them serving as guardians for other vets from that war. Experienced teams of paramedics, nurses, physicians, counselors and bus captains support every HonorAir flight.
When the two-hour orientation session for veterans and guardians wrapped up on Saturday morning, Adkins had gotten a glimpse of the military-like precision that goes into an Honor Flight operation.
“Our son’s here today,” she said. “He’s smiling.”
One of the stops on the tour is Arlington National Cemetery, where Matthew is buried.
“When he was happiest in both deployments was when he really wanted to be considered a good soldier, a good, good soldier,” she said. “A couple of his friends said, ‘He was the best soldier I ever served with.’”
What would she want the world to know about Matthew?
“There are so many things,” she said, then paused. “He was the soldier he wanted to be. He was the soldier he worked so hard to be.”
“Service Above Self”… that’s the motto of every Rotarian in the world. But every time I reflect on these words, the same people come to my mind… our veterans; the men and women who have committed their lives to protecting our freedom by putting themselves in harm’s way. THAT is service above self. “Service Above Self”… that’s the motto of every Rotarian in the world. But every time I reflect on these words, the same people come to my mind… our veterans; the men and women who have committed their lives to protecting our freedom by putting themselves in harm’s way. THAT is service above self.
I know that my fellow Rotarians also recognize the sacrifices of those who have served; many of them are veterans as well. It’s part of what makes me proud to be a Rotarian. Because of that, the Hendersonville and Asheville Rotary clubs are official partners of what has come to be known as Blue Ridge Honor Flight here in Western North Carolina. It’s mission: To transport America’s Veterans to Washington, DC to visit those memorials dedicated to honor the service and sacrifices of themselves and their friends.
July 10, 2017
There are defining moments in life that are rare but so meaningful that they’re seriously enhanced by being shared with others. For this reason, I am interrupting my river series to tell you about an amazing odyssey I was honored to be part of recently. I was a guest participant in a very special program this May run by a local nonprofit, Blue Ridge Honor Flight. Formerly known as HonorAir, it was founded by Jeff Miller of Hendersonville, an outstanding leader in the community. The program originally served World War II veterans and has now been extended to Korean War veterans like me and some Vietnam vets as well.
The local group is an arm of the national Honor Flight Network. Rotary Club volunteers hold fundraisers and recruit escorts for these deeply moving trips.
I was one of 91 veterans invited to take part in a free trip to Washington, D.C., to visit the World War II, Korean War and Vietnam Veterans memorials. The trip also included a special stop to witness the deeply moving changing of the guard at the magnificent Arlington National Cemetery.
Upon arriving at the Asheville Regional Airport early that Saturday morning, I was greeted by my very own “guardian,” Dan Akers, one of the 91 volunteer escorts who not only gave up their Saturday but paid their own way to attend to our every need and ensure that our group’s experience would be safe and comfortable.
June 27, 2017
Andrews, NC. Saturday, June 17th is a day that Richard Parker will not soon forget, for it marked the day that the terminal at Western Carolina Regional Airport was named the “Richard Parker Terminal” in his honor. The ceremony, held at the Cherokee County airport, was attended by over 200 dignitaries and residents of this mountain community.
Parker, 90, has been the driving force behind the evolution of the airfield from a grass strip into a modern general aviation hub for the western part of the state. Mayor Bill Hughes of Murphy called Parker, “the father of aviation” in the region and claimed that “when you think of the airport you always think of Richard Parker.”
Mr. Parker learned to fly at the airport in 1946 when it was just a grass strip, later starting an informal air taxi service for locals until he was eventually hired as the corporate pilot for Phillips and Jordan, a civil construction firm, in 1959. Parker later led the airport advisory committee that planned and implemented several airport upgrades after Cherokee County purchased the airport in 1968. He retired from flying in 2008 after serving as the airport manager and accumulating over 25,000 flying hours.