Lancaster – Ohio University's regional campuses were founded in the 1940's on the idea of bringing higher education to communities where World War II veterans with families and jobs needed access. On Veteran's Day 2012, Ohio University Lancaster | Pickerington prides itself on being able to help veterans acquire the education and skills they need to get a job. There are currently 85 veterans enrolled.
One of the first people those veterans encounter when they come to the Lancaster Campus is Karen Walker-Sparks. Walker-Sparks fields phone calls and works at the Information Desk. She puts many veterans interested in coming to school in touch with the right people on campus to get the services they need.Little do they know that veterans hold a special place in her heart.
"My husband, Richard L. Sparks, got his orders for Vietnam when we were awaiting the birth of our daughter, but got deferred until after her birth. When she was five months old, he left for Vietnam," said Walker-Sparks. "He was stationed with the 589th Engineer Battalion in An Khe and spent his working hours building roads and bridges and airplane hangars. After five months, when they were moving out, he was killed when a flatbed trailer collapsed on him and another soldier in Binh Dinh Province."
The two were married for just 16 months. Decades later, Walker-Sparks still carries her husband's memory with her every day and every year on Veteran's Day, she honors him. But this year she is making a special trip to Washington D.C. to remember Richard.
"As a supporter of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, I receive e-mails from them and was notified that they were reading all 58,282 names on the Wall this Veterans Day weekend as part of the 30th anniversary celebration of the Wall. They asked for volunteers to read," said Walker-Sparks. "I sent an e-mail and told them that I would be there to read my husband's name, among others."
The Reading of the Names will take place for 65 hours over a four-day period beginning with an opening ceremony on Wednesday, November 7, 2012.
"Honoring my husband by reading his name and talking about him is a way for me to memorialize him. He is a hero who served his country with five years of service and died doing his job," said Walker-Sparks. "As long as our nation remembers its heroes, they are not truly gone."