Old Soldier Joe King’s Battle Ends

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 4, 2011

Joe Harding King of Yadkin Valley will be laid to rest this Wednesday with full military honors, of course.
The Advance man who helped perform that duty for nearly 2,000 other veterans in Davie, Forsyth and other counties died on Sunday. He was at his beloved Green Meadows Baptist Church when he collapsed of an apparent heart attack.
Although frail in his final years, King, 85, had an unswerving devotion to his fellow veterans of World War II, wanting to give them the final thanks of a grateful community. Even in rain and often-harsh weather, he donned his Army uniform day after day to be one of the sentinels at gravesides. He often did two funerals a day. He had planned to be at a funeral Sunday afternoon.
He regularly volunteered at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Salisbury. He sold Buddy Poppies in the grocery store parking lots to raise money for his Advance VFW Post 8719. He marched in parades and went to school programs for Veterans Day and Memorial Day in his personal quest to help us remember the sacrifices for freedom.
King was one of a small sentry of old soldiers who have made it their final unpaid military duty to present the neatly folded American flag to veterans’ widows and children and fire the 21-gun salute.
Once numbering 16 million and part of the most formidable fighting force ever marshaled against tyrants, World War II veterans are disappearing from our midst, sometimes at the rate of a thousand a day. That translates into a thousand funerals for someone to present the flag, to shoot the rifles and play taps.
King was one of those “someones.”
Pvt. King fought in the Pacific at Guam and Luzon in 1945. Later he was part of a police force in Korea until he returned to his home in Yadkin Valley in 1947.
He worked in textiles. He and his wife raised five children and took great pride in the accomplishments of their expanding brood of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
His son, Thomas, said his father never had much money, but the family inherits a treasure in the memories of their dad’s unswerving honesty and devotion to God, family and country.
Younger veterans had urged King to give up the funeral duty, but he declined.
“He felt like he had an obligation to do this for the other veterans,” his son said. “On weekends, he would be gone all the time …