Requiem for a soldier. Cedar Falls veteran, Grout supporter laid to rest at picturesque Iowa Veterans Cemetery

Posted by Pat Kinney on Tuesday, May 14, 2024

ADEL — It was probably appropriate Larry Walters (pictured below) was laid to rest by his friends on a windy day.

All the flags at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery seemed to stand at attention, shoulders to the wind and completely unfurled, in tribute to a guy who stood tall and proud in his service, in and out of uniform. And the gray clouds gave way as the cemetery’s gardens of stone were drenched in sunlight.

It was a most peaceful and pastoral setting - a fitting place for Larry Walters or anyone else who has spent time in war or stood the watch for liberty.

An American Flag whips in the wind over the Iowa Veterans Cemetery near Adel.

Family and friends of Larry Walters packed the Iowa Veterans Cemetery Pavilion for his memorial service.

Walters, 80, who passed away March 12 after struggling with dementia, was a Vietnam combat veteran from Cedar Falls who also served for 36 years in the Iowa National Guard, as a helicopter mechanic at the Guard air aviation facility north of the Waterloo airport.

He served 366 days in Vietnam in 1967-68 as a heavy machine gunner in the U.S. Army 1st Cavalry Division. He was involved in Operation Pegasus in the relief of embattled Marines at Khe Sanh. He received a Bronze Star, among other decorations.

In civilian life, Walters helped re-establish and revitalize the Cedar Falls Veterans of Foreign Wars post; helped preserve the historic rural German Burial Ground cemetery and landmark rural Bennington Township School No. 4 northeast of Waterloo; and helped initiate a wheelchair ramp project for disabled veterans, mainly with veteran volunteers.

In 2015, he and a committee of Vietnam veterans also helped plan what is now a permanent Vietnam exhibit at the Sullivan Brothers Iowa Veterans Museum in Waterloo’s Grout Museum District. The effort was recognized by the Iowa Tourism Council.

A busload of family, friends, fellow veterans, an escort of motorcycle riders and additional mourners in private vehicles accompanied Larry’s remains on a final journey of 150 miles.

It was a fitting tribute to a man who had gone the extra mile for so many.

Soldiers from an Iowa National Guard honor guard fold Larry Walters' memorial flag, with the urn bearing his remains on a table to the left, as a rifle squad stands at parade rest.

And some final words in tribute to Larry came from someone who went the extra mile for him.

One of his best friends, Len Swiatly, a fellow Vietnam veteran who served in the “brown water Navy” river patrols during that war, stayed close to Larry’s family and organized much of the final tribute to his friend. That included food and treats on the trip home for those who had made the journey.

Overcome with emotion during the service, he turned his back to the assembly for a moment to compose himself before speaking. He spoke measuredly, with purpose and from the heart.

“Larry was great friend. He was a friend to all of us. He was, without a doubt, a veteran’s veteran. He was always there if you needed him,” Swiatly said to a standing-room-only gathering at the cemetery pavilion.

”Rest in peace, Larry, fellow warrior,” Swiatly said. “Save a spot for us next to you, wherever you are. We hope to be by your side in the future.”

”I want to thank you all for loving Larry. He was quite a man,” his wife Jane said at the gravesite.

An Iowa National Guard honor guard from Camp Dodge in nearby Johnston performed military rites, including a rifle salute, the playing of “Taps” and the folding and presentation of Larry’s memorial flag to Jane.

Len Swiatly of Cedar Falls, a friend of Larry Walters and a fellow Vietnam veteran, eulogizes Walters at his service at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery.

A landscape scene of the graves at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery near Adel

The cemetery ceremony had been preceded by a celebration of life at the Cedar Falls AMVETS post two days earlier, with appropriately, a flyover by a Guard helicopter from the facility where Larry worked.

The Iowa Veterans Cemetery was dedicated in 2008 on 100 acres of land provided by two donors in rural Adel. It is just south of Interstate 80 in Dallas County between West Des Moines and De Soto.

The Iowa Deparment of Veterans Affairs raised funds for the cemetery and it was authorized by the Iowa Legislature in 2005. More information about the cemetery, including history and eligibility, can be found here.

It provided a fitting vista for the simple, poignant, intimate final tribute to Larry Walters — in the spring beauty of Iowa’s fruited plain.

About The Author

Pat is the Oral Historian for the Grout Museum District.