Anonymous letter leads to local veteran keeping Honor Guard tradition alive

Dave Walden, 33, Post Commander of VFW Post 10427 in Leander

LEANDER, Texas (KXAN) — It’s pretty uncommon these days for a story idea to be sent to KXAN via snail mail.

A couple of weeks ago, an envelope arrived with no return address. Inside was a typed letter that started with, “Hello, I am writing this letter to tell you about a man that I feel is a true local hero.”

The author went on to say they wish to remain anonymous and want all the credit to go to “a man I believe has a heart bigger than the entire state of Texas.”

That man is Dave Walden, 33, a disabled army veteran who lives in Killeen so his children can finish high school. He makes the drive into Austin every weekday to go to work, and spends his free time connecting with other veterans.

“I actually went into the army on November 11, 2001 — two months to the day after September 11th happened,” said Walden.

After 11 years serving our country, Walden had to medically retire, partly due to injuries from a roadside bomb in Iraq. About three and a half years ago, Walden found the camaraderie he’d been missing from the military at VFW Post 10427 in Leander.

“I can still help soldiers and I can still help veterans and do the things I used to do even though I’m no longer in the service,” said Walden, who is the post commander.

This year, under his leadership the VFW post placed first in its division in the entire state of Texas, volunteered more than 100 hours of community service, fed more than 100 needy families at Thanksgiving, helped raise more than $10,000 for post-traumatic stress disorder foundations, and provided several scholarships for local students.

An entire paragraph of the letter describes what Walden did about a year and a half ago when the VFW District 28 Honor Guard was about to dissolve due to aging veterans who were unable to participate. The organization travels around Central Texas providing funeral honors for veterans to make sure they are laid to rest with the honor and respect they deserve.

“Myself and another couple of gentleman just thought we can’t let the tradition die because if we don’t do it, who’s gonna do it?” said Walden.

He took on the assistant role, and a few months later the veteran in charge, Howard Klotz, needed the Honor Guard’s services.

“We were out, I believe it was a Thursday, doing a funeral service for a veteran,” said Walden. “Very next morning Howard had a heart attack. [He] looked fine Thursday night, had a heart attack the very next morning.”

The letter continues, “Without hesitation Dave stepped up and assumed this role and provided the funeral honors for his comrade that just passed.”

Since December of 2016, Walden has taken the reigns and revived the local VFW Honor Guard. The group participates in about three to four veteran funerals a month.

“I don’t consider myself a hero,” said Walden. “I don’t consider myself anything more than just somebody out here trying to do my part.”

He has no plans of stopping anytime soon, and works to get younger veterans like himself involved.

Walden and the VFW District 28 Honor Guard will be participating in a special Memorial Day ceremony in Pflugerville on Monday, May 28, 2017.

It will be held at 11 a.m. on Memorial Day at the Cook-Walden Capital Parks cemetery at 14501 N. Interstate Hwy 35, Pflugerville, Texas. The service will take place toward the back of the cemetery in an area called “Texas Liberty.”

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