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Dedication held for monument

A crowd of veterans, their families and community members celebrated at the Monticello Armory Wednesday the unveiling of a monument dedicated to National Guardsmen activated during the Korean War.

The monument bears the name of the 93 soldiers with the 31st Infantry “Dixie” Division’s Company D who left Monticello on Jan. 16, 1951 for Korea.

Charles Bufkin, himself a member of Company D, first proposed the monument and was the driving force behind its completion.

“You can’t let history like that go,” he said.

Company D, established Jan. 23, 1950, was the National Guard unit in Monticello, Bufkin said.

With a smile, Bufkin remembers that conditions were a little bit more primitive than now: the first armory was cold and had no running water.

Things have changed, in Monticello though. The current armory, on Old Highway 27, will soon be replaced by a new, more than $14 million, 52,000 square-foot armory.

At Wednesday’s ceremony, held at Old Highway 27 facility, Bufkin was joined by eight fellow veterans of Company D.

He’s not sure, but Bufkin thinks the years have largely depleted the ranks of the men he served alongside.

“I think this will be the last hoorah of Company D,” he said. “I think most of them are gone.”

That’s another reason he sees the monument as significant, so that grandchildren and others have something solid to see as a reminder of the service offered by the men of Company D.

“You’ll be there forever,” he said of the monument.

The 31st Infantry Division of the Army National Guard, nicknamed “Dixie Division” saw active duty in World War I and World War II.

During the Korean War, some units of the division were sent to Korea.

Bufkin raised about $4,000 for the monument, which was engraved by Brookhaven Monument.

He said he thought he could raise the money, and that’s exactly what he did, pulling in the needed donations in less than a month.

Monticello Mayor Davie Nichols praised Bufkin as the very definition of a “go-getter.”

He further praised the men whose names are on the monument.

“Hero is a word that’s thrown around fairly easily these days,” Nichols said, before emphasizing that the veterans that have been stationed in Monticello through the years are heroes.

John Emory, executive director of a 31st Infantry Division veterans group, called the monument a poignant symbol.

Said Emory, “Paying tribute to men who lost their lives is never totally adequate, but it is an expression of our thanks.”