SPANISH FORT, Ala. (WALA) - The Alabama State Veteran's Memorial Cemetery in Spanish Fort received its first veteran Friday, April 19.
It was a hero's salute. The echoes of gunfire reverberated through the trees and across the hilltop in Spanish Fort Friday morning. Family and friends of 81-year-old Leo Carpenter gathered to pay their last respects.
There was of course sadness for their loss, but also a sense of joy. Those close to Carpenter said it meant a lot to be able to have their family hero laid to rest on Alabama soil.
"When my wife got the call and she gave me a thumbs up, it was just like…I looked up to the Lord and I was just like, ‘Thank you," said Carpenter's son William. "Thank you for this miracle, and it was like the weight of the world came off."
William thought he would have to bury his father at the Biloxi Veteran's Cemetery. He received word at the last minute that Alabama's newest veteran's cemetery would be able to accommodate them. It was a beautiful, intimate ceremony and one that would have certainly made his father proud.
"The ceremony…the presenting the flag…it was amazing," William said after the ceremony. "I've never had anything like that before in my life, and it was an honor to take the flag…to accept the flag for everything that my father had done."
"He would be proud, and we're so proud," added one of Carpenter's sisters. "There's three sisters left out of seven children, so we're proud and he would be so proud too. He really would."
It was also a proud day for those who worked so hard for so long to bring the cemetery to be. It's been seven years since the push began and a year and a half since the groundbreaking. For people like Dr. Barry Booth who was instrumental in getting the cemetery here, the greatest reward is seeing the look of pride on the faces of the veteran's families.
"That's been the message…to be able to provide a place of honor for the veterans of Alabama to come home and that's exactly what we have," Booth said.
Leo Carpenter joined the Navy just a few days out of high school and later dedicated much of his life to the Army National Guard.
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