Warrant officer remembered for legacy of service, valor

Story by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond with contributions by Jason LeMay, Kentucky Department of Military Affairs

Walters Medal of Valor

Chief Warrant Officer Wren Walters receives the Kentucky Medal of Valor from Gov. Wendell H. Ford at Fort Knox, Ky., June, 1974. Walters was recognized for saving the life of a woman attempting to jump from a bridge near Fort Knox in 1973. (Courtesy photo)

July has been declared Kentucky National Guard Warrant Officer Month in a proclamation by Gov. Steve Beshear.  This is one of a series of articles we are publishing in celebration of the warrant officer corps.  Click here to read more about 95th birthday of the Army’s warrant officer corps.

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Chief Warrant Officer Wren Walters is a legend among the warrant officer corps in Kentucky. He was a family man who dedicated many years of his life to being a positive role model to all he encountered, in uniform and out.

Three years after his death, it’s still easy to see the impact the maintenance warrant officer left on a family, a community and an organization.

Wren Howard Walters Sr. enlisted in the Kentucky Army National Guard in March 1948 and retired in April 1989 with more than 40 years of service. He served on active duty during the Korean War and when the Kentucky Guard was activated for the Berlin Crisis from October 10, 1961 to August 11, 1962. He also served with the 103rd Forward Support Battalion in Danville.

“Chief Walters is a familiar name to most warrant officers still serving today,” said State Command Chief Warrant Officer James Simms. “His legacy as a Leader, Mentor, Trainer still lives in each of us as we continue his desire to not only develop young soldiers but the youth in his community as well.”

“His presence and expertise is truly missed and reflected on by many in our day to day decisions effecting our soldiers.”

A native of Bardstown, Ky., Walters served as an enlisted soldier as an instrument repairman helper and instrument repairman at Frankfort’s Combined Support Maintenance Shop. He became a warrant officer in November 1968 and retired as foreman of the armor shop.

Walters is one of only four warrant officers to be awarded the Kentucky Medal for Valor. The medal is awarded to a member of the Kentucky National Guard who has distinguished himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life while in the service of the State and/or United States.

40 year group

Chief Warrant Officer Wren Walters, (third from right) was recognized along with other Kentucky Guardsmen for their 40 plus years of service during a ceremony in Frankfort, Ky., 1991. From left to right are: Adjutant General Tebbs Moore, Chief Warrant Officer Harold Canon, Chief Warrant Officer John Young, Command Sgt. Maj. Marion Williams, Walters, Command Sgt. Maj. Ray Boyd and Chief Warrant Officer Glenn Birdwhistell. (Courtesy photo)

On January 4, 1973, Walters, while serving with the 413th Heavy Equipment Maintenance Company, was awarded the Kentucky Medal for Valor “for a deed of personal bravery above and beyond the call of duty” for saving an individual above the Salt River near Fort Knox, Ky.

Members of the 413th were traveling in a convoy to Fort Knox. As the convoy passed over the Salt River bridge on Highway 31 W at West Point, Ky., a woman was observed walking along the highway and onto the bridge. She proceeded to climb over the railing apparently intending to jump to her death in the frigid river below. Walters stopped his vehicle as he crossed the bridge and restrained the woman, risking possible injury or being dragged into the river himself until other Guardsmen got to the site and assisted in pulling her back over the railing to safety.

Walters was presented the award by Governor Wendell H. Ford and Maj Gen Richard L. Frymire during a ceremony in June, 1974 at Fort Knox.  A total of 57 Kentucky Guard Soldiers and Airmen have received the Kentucky Medal for Valor.

Click here to see more on this on page 3 Kentucky Guardsman July 1974 Issue article “Review NG Troops June 7.

Wren married his wife, Volinda in 1951, and had two children. Their oldest, Wren Jr., enjoyed his own successful military career in the Army, retiring as a lieutenant colonel.  A younger son, John died in a scuba diving accident when he was only 17.

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Volinda Walters holds a picture of her husband at her home in Frankfort, Ky., July 22, 2013. The photo shows Chief Warrant Officer Wren Walters receiving the Kentucky Medal of Valor in 1974. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Scott Raymond)

The Walters leaned on each other and provided strength for each other through all their life’s misfortunes, and blessings.  A unity for all to respect and a diagram for success in life. For 58 years of their marriage, Volinda was an Army wife, while also a full-time nurse, maintaining the family and the support of her husband.

“When one person is in the military, the whole family is in the military,” she said. “You have to support your husband, and walk the walk with them.”

“He embraced life and lived it very intentionally and intensively, you could say,” she said of her husband. “We had some really interesting times in the Guard.”

Volinda remains a solid supporter of the military and the Kentucky National Guard, continuing the hope her husband had for the future of all Guardsmen.

“It’s amazing how far we have come,” she said of the Guard. “You can’t spend that many years associated with something like that and not continue an interest. I wish the general public knew of all the great things the military does for families and children and society.”

Wren Walters passed away April 19, 2010 at the age of 80, after a long battle with muscular dystrophy. When asked about the time she spent with her husband, Volinda said simply, “While I shed tears, I will not complain. We had a good time, we had a very good life.”

Click here for more information on the Kentucky Medal for Valor and its recipients.

NOTE: The actual citation for the Kentucky Medal for Valor was not available. This account was pieced together from witness accounts and publications.  Thanks for information and research assistance to: CW4 (R) Harold Canon; LTC (R) Willoughby S. Goin III; Glenn Minor; SFC (R) Thomas J Murphy III; CSM (R) Frederick D, Schleifer; COL (R) Ralph Palmore and CW4 (R) Murray Parrish.

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