Veterans Day 2022

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Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s Tribute to Veterans Day

By Rosey White, AmeriCorps Member, Black Warrior Riverkeeper

In partnership with AmeriCorps, Black Warrior Riverkeeper is honoring veterans on Veterans Day by exploring the historical connection between veterans and Waterkeeper Alliance; speaking with the Alabama Veterans Memorial Foundation; and providing a list of veterans memorial parks in or near the Black Warrior River watershed.

Waterkeeper Alliance is a nonprofit organization founded in 1999 to connect and support over 350 grassroots Waterkeeper groups across the world. The Waterkeeper movement started in the 1960s when a group of U.S. military veterans and fishermen organized a clean water advocacy organization on the Hudson River.

The Hudson, located in New York, had become polluted by the 1960s by massive amounts of untreated waste. Waterkeeper Alliance’s executive director, Marc Yaggi, noted in a 2018 interview with Michael Lee Nirenberg that, by the 1960s, the Hudson River had become “a national laughing stock”. As men returned from their military service in the Korean War, they came back to find their hometown river nearly dead. So, they took action.

A group of military veterans and fishermen met in 1966 at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall to form the Hudson River Fishermen’s Association and soon after launched the first Riverkeeper patrol boat. Their leader was Robert H. Boyle, a writer for Sports Illustrated who served in the United States Marine Corps during the Korean War. With the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 putting law on their side, they started patrolling, collecting evidence of pollution, and prosecuting those responsible.

After serving across the seas, these men returned home to find it also in need of service. Their selflessness led to the growth of a movement to protect our waterways and created a network of organizations committed to protecting each of their community waterways. Today, we take a moment to recognize the impact of our veterans’ service even after returning home and honor their contributions to cleaner waterways across the world.

Robert H. Boyle (1928-2017), the United States Marine Corps veteran who founded the world’s first Waterkeeper organization on the Hudson River. Photo by Richard L. Harbus, The New York Times.

In 2020, Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s first AmeriCorps member, Katie Fagan, partnered with Cahaba Riverkeeper, a fellow member of Waterkeeper Alliance and Waterkeepers Alabama, to organize a cleanup at Alabama Veterans Memorial Park. This November, we reached back out to Alabama Veterans Memorial Foundation to learn about the importance of having a permanent tribute for our veterans and ask what we can do throughout the year to honor those who have served. These responses provided are paraphrased.

How does Veterans Memorial Park honor veterans?

Della Fancher, the founder of Alabama Veterans Memorial Foundation, felt there was not enough recognition and attention given to veterans here in Alabama. She reached out to others who all felt the same way. They organized, got some property and resources donated, and established Alabama Veterans Memorial Park in May of 2001. The reason they chose to establish a park may have been influenced by other memorials already established, such as the Vietnam Memorial. They wanted to create a lasting tribute to our veterans that people could experience anytime. The park is composed of the American Flag Plaza featuring stepstones with veterans’ names and ranks; the Memorial Plaza which highlights Medal of Honor recipients; and the Hall of Honor which recognizes the Alabamians who have fought and lost their lives in the line of duty. It serves as visible recognition of the sacrifices made by Alabamian veterans and educates others about “war, peace, and civic responsibility.”

How can our readers and volunteers honor veterans throughout the year?

More people need to get involved either by donating time or money to your local veterans organizations. Alabama Veterans Memorial Foundation is currently composed of primarily retirees and they would love to see some more young people eager to get involved.

Another way we can honor our veterans is by visiting the Veterans Memorial Parks within Alabama and ensuring they remain clean. Below is a list of each of several parks in or near the Black Warrior River watershed:

Alabama Veterans Memorial Park | Exit 23, 100 Overton Access Rd I-459, Birmingham, AL 35243

Veterans Memorial | 1636 Pinson St, Birmingham, AL 35217

Veterans Memorial Park | McFarland Blvd E, Tuscaloosa, AL 35401

Veterans Memorial Park | 503 Park St, Hanceville, AL 35077

War Memorial | 1609 Old Newcastle Rd, Fultondale, AL 35068

Veterans Park | 4800 Valleydale Rd, Meadowbrook, AL 35242

Trussville Veterans Memorial Park | 55 Parkway Dr, Trussville, AL 35173

We encourage everyone to visit their local Veterans Memorial Park on Veterans Day. The parks serve as a permanent tribute to the men and women who served to protect our freedoms, so let us honor them by keeping these parks clean!

To view our previous Veterans Day of Service projects completed in partnership with AmeriCorps, please follow the links below:



To serve your community through Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s volunteer projects, please visit

Katie Fagan and Charles Scribner hauling litter to the landfill after Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s 2020 Veterans Day cleanup with Cahaba Riverkeeper at Alabama Veterans Memorial Park. Photo by George Elliott, Cahaba Riverkeeper.

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