Russell Stone was selected to receive the Outstanding Military Veteran Award and W.C. Fowlkes was named Martinsville-Henry County’s Veteran of the Year during a Veterans Day service at the HJDB Event Center.
“It is truly an honor to present to W.C. Fowlkes this year’s Veteran of the Year award for 2022,” said Walter Sheppard who presented the award to Fowlkes.
Fowlkes said he didn’t know what to say other than thank you.
“I guess if you really enjoy what you’re doing, if you feel like you’re accomplishing something, most often for those who have a need, you really don’t think about it. It’s just what you should be doing,” he said.
Fowlkes grew up in Henry County and graduated from Drewry Mason High School. He then entered the Air Force and served for four and a half years as a medic. He graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in real estate and urban planning, and went on to spend more than 35 years in mortgage, investment, and commercial banking.
Fowlkes was an early chairman of the Martinsville Uptown Revitalization Association, and serves on the Habitat for Humanity Board, Martinsville-Henry County Crimestoppers Board, and is involved with many other local organizations.
Noting that he was humbled by the award and his accomplishments that led to it, Fowlkes credited those who worked with him and helped him along the way.
“I never looked for anything in return, other than the thanks from those that I was able to help and assist at different times. It wasn’t me, ever. I was always with a group. Always with a group of veterans trying to do what we could do for others. Whether it was here, whether it was in Iraq. It was just the thing to do. That’s about the only way I know how to say it,” he said.
“I just really do appreciate it and I’m very proud of this, I really am. And thank you all so much. Thank you,” Fowlkes said in closing.
The Veteran of the Year award began in 1992 and is given by the Veteran Service Organization. It recognizes a veteran who demonstrated an outstanding career and continues to serve their community.
The Veterans Service Organization of Martinsville and Henry County also presided at the ceremony which included Henry County and Martinsville officials, veterans and others.
Debra Buchanan, who serves on the Henry County Board of Supervisors, presented the Outstanding Military Veteran Award.
“It’s a privilege to be here before you today, gathered to honor our veterans and to remember their achievement and dedications, and say ‘thank you for your sacrifice,’” Buchanan said.
While thinking “of the heroes that are here with us today, and those who can only be with us in spirit, I can’t help but feel overcome,” she said, adding that she stood “in the midst of our nation’s most precious resource: The American Patriot.”
Buchanan was among those serving on the Board of Supervisors when the award was created for “the nominee who best represents what service to our country and our community means.” With the support of Martinsville City Council, the field of applicants was expanded to include veterans who lived in the city.
Tommy Slaughter, also a member of the Henry County Board of Supervisors, presented the 2022 Outstanding Military Veteran Award to Russell Stone.
“Russell, this is a plaque from the city of Martinsville and Henry County recognizing you as the 2022 Outstanding Military Veteran award. It is proudly presented in recognition of your distinguished military and community service,” Slaughter said.
Stone began his military career in 1967 when he joined the Marine Corps. He helped with processing Marines in and out of Vietnam before being stationed there himself. While in Vietnam, Stone stepped on a landmine, losing both of his legs below the knee. He was then honorably discharged.
Afterwards, Stone became an advocate for disabled veterans and other disabled people, helping to develop better prosthetics and improve handicap accessibility. He also helped start a wheelchair basketball team.
Slaughter then shared his own experience with Stone at a wheelchair basketball fundraiser.
“First time I met you was on the basketball court when I was a police officer, and we were asked to help y’all with a fundraiser. Before the night was over with, I knew you well. We thought we were going to have to take it easy on y’all and y’all like to have killed us,” Slaughter said, chuckling.
Stone encouraged those attending to stand up for what they believe in and for the democracy of the United States.
“We live in a different time now. We are bombarded with different ideas and different thoughts, but the military and our government, our democracy, has to stand. I will fight verbally to make sure that this does stand. We have to stand for what we’ve accomplished and what we have done in the past and God knows what we can do in the future,” he said.
Stone ended his comments with a patriotic send off and his gratitude.
“God bless you and God bless America and God bless all of the veterans. Thank you,” he said.