Honoring the fallen a family tradition for Guardsman

By Staff Sgt. Benjamin Crane, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Retired 1st Sgt. James Walter Yount Jr., poses for a photo next to the Shrine to Kentucky War Dead memorial during its restoration at the Frankfort Cemetery in Frankfort, Ky., Sept. 19, 2018. Yount, his grandfather, uncle and cousin all served in the military and at one time helped take care of the monument since 1943. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Crane)

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Honoring the Soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice is the best way to ensure their devotion to the country will never be forgotten.

For one retired National Guardsman, James Walter Yount Jr., this charge to honor those in his family who have made this sacrifice is a duty he takes very seriously. He is also dedicated to remembering his grandfather who served in World War 1.

“That monument in Frankfort has been touched by so many hands of the Yount family, it means a lot to me,” said Yount. “And it’s an honor to help maintain it.”

In 1943, The Eugene Mitchell Post No. 1993 Veterans of Foreign Wars launched plans for an Armistice Days observance to commemorate its installation of a permanent shrine to the Kentucky dead of all wars.

The VFW post was named for Mitchell as he was the first Service member from Frankfort to be killed in the first World War. Mitchell was a 19-year-old fireman in the U.S. Navy.

Frankfort’s Shrine to Kentucky War Dead is located atop the bluff of the Frankfort Cemetery, close to Daniel Boone’s grave. The shrine is a light on a 6-foot high stone pedestal that was to be illuminated each night of the year. Local post members constructed the pedestal, which was dedicated November 11, 1943, commemorating the 25th year after the signing of the WWI Armistice.

The light was turned on by VFW post commander Edward Yount, whom later became charter member of the Frankfort VFW Post 4075. Edward was James’ grandfather.

Edward Yount, was a WWI Veteran who served from 1917-1918 in Germany and was one of the original 23 draftees from Shelby County, Kentucky. The 23 men were all assigned to Bravo Company of the 336th Infantry stationed at Camp Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky.

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On May 22, 1981, VFW Post 4075 Frankfort commander Jack Clark, Quartermaster George Thompson, Eugene Yount (James’ uncle in Navy) Eugene Yount Jr., (James’ cousin) and James’ father, James Walter Yount Sr. (who served with the Kentucky Guard in Vietnam) participated in installing a new concrete flagpole base and a 20-foot pole at the eternal light memorial in the cemetery. A fresh coat of white paint was also applied to the memorial.

Since then, Yount and his family, Butch Graves, vice senior commander of VFW 4075, along with other post members have worked to maintain and honor this memorial monument.

“I’ve been going up there since I was a little kid with my dad and my uncle and they emphasized that even if they weren’t alive, I need to take care of this,” said Yount.

Recently, he and Graves started a large effort to clear the brush away from the area and repaint the base of the light and flagpole They have also added a solar panel to the monument to keep the light constantly lit as was the original intent of the shrine.

“We are up there constantly,” said Yount, “We want to keep the light lit every night and since the VFW was paying the electric bill on it now, we decided to put a solar panel up there. It’s our goal to keep that light lit.”

But the task is more than just a solar panel; back breaking work, time and energy, sweat and a lot of paint is the work to remember the loved ones taken too soon. That idea is what drives their mission.

“I’ve bought a new pulley and rope, and I’ve even got a new flag,” said Yount. “I don’t mind spending the money because it’s worth the sacrifice to me.”

While in the Guard, Yount Jr. served as a first sergeant with Bravo Company, 103rd Brigade Support Battalion and retired last year after 25 plus years of service to the Kentucky National Guard and is currently a life member of the Frankfort VFW Post 4075 where he serves as an Honor Guard member.

“It means a lot, See I just got goosebumps, that’s how much it means to me and that’s the reason I’m with the honor guard now. We’ve got to honor our soldiers that wear the uniform.”