KANNAPOLIS, N.C. -- Almost everyone at Veterans Park on Monday faced the newly spruced-up gazebo in this shaded little grove between First Baptist Church and the David H. Murdock Core Laboratory.
There, Gov. Pat McCrory was addressing the crowd on Memorial Day, acknowledging the sacrifices of soldiers and Gold Star families.
Some sat in the front rows. That’s where David Francis of Concord was, his 6-year-old son, Xavier, shifting often on his lap. Francis listened as McCrory, American Legion and VFW commanders, chaplains and retired Air Force pilot Col. Claude “Buzz” Rich honored veterans such as his sister.
Lakeina Francis died at 19 in the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in 2000, an attack later claimed by al-Qaida.
“I talked to her on the phone the night it happened,” Francis said. “She’d only just left.”
But a few stayed near the new memorial – a bit to the west, in the sun this day, amid new brick walkways, stone fountains and a small tower. Monday was its dedication ceremony.
There, a gas flame rises – it took two tries to formally light it – within a circular monument whose granite panels are engraved with the more than 1,700 names of veterans from Cabarrus and Rowan counties who have died serving their country since the Revolutionary War. Letters after each name denote the war or conflict: “C’s for Civil War, V’s for Vietnam,” Air Force JROTC Cadet Josiah Thompson, 14, told visitors as he helped them find specific names.
And there is where Emily Canup Blacklinn sought and found her father’s name: Franklin Harlee Canup Jr.
She brought her mother to the place and pointed.
Her mother is Motoko Canup of Concord, who briefly told her story as tears welled: She grew up in Yokohama, Japan, and studied English in junior college.
Love in cut short
Her husband, who grew up in Kannapolis, she says, had fought and been shot in the Korean War, then sent to Japan to recuperate. When he’d healed enough, he was put to work in the supply office of the city’s engineering depot, where then 19-year-old Motoko worked.
“He was, oh, 22? I paid no attention to him,” she said.
“She was playing hard to get,” said Emily, smiling.
But eventually, it was decided between Motoko’s minister and Franklin’s commanding officer that they would be an exemplary Christian couple.
They married ,and, when children didn’t arrive, decided to adopt. They brought Emily home in 1966, Motoko remembered, “and one year later, he went to Vietnam.
“He never came back.”
Franklin Canup Jr. is listed as an electrician’s mate in the Navy, with a Jan. 14, 1967, date of death, in the National Gold Star Family Registry. “I only wanted to see his name,” Motoko said.
Looking for a name
Cadet Thompson found this duty to be the most honorable of events he has helped staff in his time as a JROTC from Central Cabarrus High in Concord. A freshman, he says he comes from a military family; his father served more than 20 years in the Army.
Of the visitors he guided to names on the memorial, he was especially struck by one World War II veteran who told Thompson he was saved by a friend’s suppressive fire on the enemy – a friend who did not survive, whose name he was seeking.
All over the grounds, one heard introductions – “Colonel, this is my dad. He fought in Vietnam in ’64-’65” – and saw T-shirts and intricate patches: “The nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten.” People in motorcycle gear, with Patriot Guard Rider bandanas, took photos of those in sailor gear and Army green and vice versa. Boy Scouts helped Rowan Veterans Honor Guard members raise flags, and pit bull mix pups took naps on newly laid lengths of sod between lawn chairs and coolers.
The new part of the park, once called Town Park and christened Veterans Park in 2001 before the latest work began about a year and a half ago, replaces a road that once led from Main Street to the mills.
“To be in Kannapolis,” said McCrory, “this is the best of Americana, right here.”