GREENWOOD, SC – A war monument in Greenwood that listed fallen soldiers by the color of their skin has been altered after years of debate.
Now, the plaques list the names of all fallen officers from World War I and World War II in alphabetical order.
“When you look at this and you come to a memorial, you say, ‘Those people died for my country,’” said Dale Kittles, a veteran and member of American Legion Post 20 in Greenwood. “If you try to look for the color of the person’s skin that did that, then you’re here for the wrong reason.”
Kittles stopped by the war memorial Tuesday, for the first time since the two plaques had been replaced.
“Everything on that monument is history. We hadn’t changed anything. All we did was show more respect,” he said.
Terry Weeks is another member of American Legion Post 20 in Greenwood.
Both Kittles and Weeks were defendants on a lawsuit calling for the war monument to be desegregated.
“Those guys whose names were on there that died because of combat, they bled red just like everybody else,” Weeks told 7 News.
Up until May, the problem with replacing the plaques was because of the Heritage Act, which makes it illegal in South Carolina to remove, change or rename a monument on public property without 2/3 vote from the general assembly.
A judge ultimately determined that the Greenwood monument was exempt because it was on private property.
Trey Ward is the contractor who swapped out the plaques in May.
He explained that he did it for free because he was tired of negative attention from national media outlets.
“We were a small town in South Carolina that still had remnants of segregation on our war monument,” he said. Ward said he saw an article in the New York Times and a story on NBC News that highlighted the monument’s segregation.
According to Ward, the price tag on the two plaques was $20,000 and was funded by private donors.
While people over the years argued it was changing history to alter the monument, Kittles and Weeks said Tuesday that it’s a matter of respecting history.
“There’s a few times in your life that you say you’ve been part of something that’s worthwhile,” said Kittle. “This was worthwhile.”