By Eliot Duke
Dunn Daily Record
Benny Godwin never served in the military, but that didn’t stop him from doing his part.
Godwin and other members of the Erwin Goodfellas got to work early Wednesday morning placing flags on the markers of every veteran laid to rest at Erwin Memorial Park. Godwin and his flag planting partner, Ron Miriello, braved the pre-summer heat and swarming gnats to pay their respects to the men who gave it all.
“I just feel like I owe it to the people who have served and sacrificed their life for it,” Godwin said. “I feel honored to be able to come out here and work with these guys. I look forward to doing it.”
Miriello served in the Army during the Vietnam War as a machine gunner on river assault boats. He brings the same level of commitment he served with to now honor his fallen brothers and sisters, especially ones so close to home.
“We want to honor those who have died in the past and who have served,” said Miriello. “I love veterans and I love people who have served this country. I’m a patriot and my blood is red, white and blue. Anything I can do to help assist with veterans, I’m just thrilled to do it.”
A Goodfellas member suggested the flag-planting idea three years ago and the rest of the group ran with it.
“We all thought it was a great idea,” Erwin-native Jim Wade, a former Army National Guard serviceman for seven years, said. “It’s part of a tradition for us now just to recognize veterans who are buried out here who served their country. They were dedicated and gave up their time and energy, and in some cases their lives serving this country. We just want to recognize that and remember them.”
By the time Monday rolls around, anyone paying a visit to Erwin Memorial Park will see the important role local veterans played in shaping America.
“There are quite a few out here,” Wade said. “We enjoy doing that because it’s just paying respect and tribute to those who served to let them know we remember them and appreciate the sacrifices they made. We hope to continue doing this as long as we’re able to.”
For Veterans Day, Wade said the group planned to not only put out new flags on markers but replace older ones as well. Initial donations helped secure several hundred flags, but Wade said the Goodfellas can always use more as they want to put out as many as possible.
Not everyone, who turned out to plant flags on Wednesday was a veteran, but everyone out there poking holes in the sun-baked ground under a hot mid-morning sun did so out of love for their country and the people who made it possible.