While Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, it’s officially a time to remember military service members who died in the line of duty. Little-known memorials scattered around Perimeter Center and Buckhead put those memories close at hand.

The Veterans Memorial in Dunwoody’s Brook Run Park is perhaps the most popular local place for reflection. But many small memorials stand in office parks, landscaping and malls around the area.

The memorial to U.S. Army 1st Lt. William Ellis Gay Jr. is hard to find at the Shepherd Center. (John Ruch)

Many were placed over the past 20 years by the Atlanta Vietnam Veterans Business Association and honor service members killed in that war. “To those who fight for it, life has a flavor the protected never know,” reads a motto on many of the group’s granite memorial markers. The group no longer erects the memorials, shifting its focus to scholarships for veterans, said president Dan Holtz.

Some of the memorials are easy to find, like the flag-ringed marker between the King and Queen skyscrapers at the Concourse Center on Sandy Springs’ Concourse Parkway. That memorial honors Army Pfc. Joel C. Roper, a “citizen soldier” and Bronze Star recipient killed in action in Vietnam in 1969. The city of Sandy Springs holds its annual Veterans Day ceremony there.

Some are nearly hidden, like the memorial to Army 1st Lt. William Ellis Gay Jr., who was killed in Cambodia in 1970. That marker is tucked amid shrubbery behind benches in the entryway of the Shepherd Center on Peachtree Road in Buckhead.

Flags mark the memorial to U.S. Army Pfc. Joel C. Roper at the Concourse Center. (John Ruch)

Gay was a graduate of Brookhaven’s Marist School, whose Ashford-Dunwoody Road campus has two memorials. One honors the 44 Marist alumni from World War I onward who have been killed in action, declared missing in action or taken as prisoners of war.

Another Marist campus memorial tells the remarkable story of one of those alumni, Air Force Maj. John L. Carroll, who was shot down over Laos while flying a small airplane as part of the Ravens, a CIA-led operation that helped to direct a secret bombing campaign. Carroll crashed on the Plain of Jars, an ancient site where the landscape is covered in large, mysterious stone containers.

“Faced with a choice between the despair of surrender and the prospect of survival, despite being confronted with overwhelming force, Maj. Carroll elected to fight,” the memorial reads. “Armed only with small arms and grenades, Maj. Carroll held off two enemy companies in an attempt to allow aircraft to effect his rescue. Despite serious wounds, he fought with tenacity and bravery until he was killed.”

He was declared missing in action until 2007, when his body was finally recovered and returned to the U.S.

Some other local memorials honor these service members:

Lance Cpl. Russell M. Dobyns Jr., Marine Corps
Chastain Park
140 West Wieuca Road, Buckhead

CWO George T. Condrey III, Army
Lenox Towers
3400 Peachtree Rd N.E., Buckhead

All Atlantans who lost their lives in Southeast Asia
Atlanta History Center
130 West Paces Ferry Road, Buckhead

Capt. Julius Patrick Yaeger, Air Force
Peachtree and Lenox roads, Buckhead

Maj. William H. Seward, Marine Corps
Perimeter Place
4540 Olde Perimeter Way, Dunwoody

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.

One reply on “Little-known memorials honor fallen service members”

  1. Thank you for such a touching article on this Memorial Day. I hope everyone will pause and give thanks to not only these brave men, but to all of the brave men and women who given their lives to keep us free.

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