Major Edwin H. Walker IV is a former Marine Corps Officer, Fullbright Scholar, Anglican Priest, president and CEO of the Maywood Chamber of Commerce, and vice president of the Maywood Bataan Day Organization, just to list a few of his achievements.
And now, he’s going to add grand marshal of Elmhurst’s Memorial Day Parade to that list.
Walker has participated in the last 15 Memorial Day parades in Elmhurst, since 1996, and this year he’s honored to serve as the grand marshal. The ceremonial role traditionally is given to someone with a military background, or as Elmhurst Chamber President and parade Co-chairman John Quigley said, it’s usually someone with “impeccable military credentials" and a strong tie to the community.
At 79, Walker fits the bill.
With a Parachutist Badge to prove it, Walker has made 127 jumps in his military career, not to mention all the scuba diving.
“When I think about it now, I don’t know how I ever did it,” Walker said of his diving assignments.
From 1965 to 1968 Walker served with the Marines around the world. In Korea he served as an Infantry Advisor with the 1st Korean Marine Division. He also served in Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, at Guantanamo Bay.
He was only given 24 hours notice before flying to Cuba. “No one knew where I was,” he said.
In 1967 and 1968, Walker was in Vietnam as commanding officer of the 1st Force Reconnaissance Company during the Tet Offensive.
“We didn’t lose the war, by the way,” he added.
Vietnam and Cuba were “two historical events I was given the honor and opportunity to serve in,” he said.
Walker also holds a Bronze Star Medal, a National Defense Service Medal, a Vietnam Service Medal and an Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, and a Marine Corps Expeditionary Medal for Cuba, among other distinctions.
Walker spent the early part of his life in Kentucky before moving to Connecticut to attend The Choate School, one of the nation’s top prep schools, with a full scholarship. Though he was accepted to Princeton, he returned to Kentucky to attend Centre College, where he majored in German and music and minored in philosophy and English.
After college he was awarded a Fullbright Scholarship and spent a year studying in Heidelberg, Germany.
Walker is grateful that he received military deferment so he could pursue his education, but after his year in Germany, the draft board had his number.
So he decided to join the Marines, “the best,” as Walker said. He wasn’t scared at the prospect of going to war.
“I was glad to serve my country,” he said.
After his time in the Marines, he attended seminary and served in several clergy positions around the country, landing in Chicago in 1978.
He’s been the president of the Maywood Chamber of Commerce for most of the years since 1989; it's a position he still holds. Saying that he’s one of the few whites and one of the few Republicans in Maywood, Walker jokingly calls himself a “double minority.”
But how did he get involved with Elmhurst’s Memorial Day Parade? A close friend of his, who played a role in developing the Veterans Memorial in Wilder Park, invited Walker to participate in the parade 15 years ago.
And he’s come back every year since. Not to mention, “I’m a great fan of Elmhurst,” Walker said.
This year was special, though, when he was asked to be the Grand Marshal. Because the grand marshals are usually Elmhurst residents, which Walker is not, he said he felt “doubly honored” to be chosen.
“I nearly fell off my chair,” he said.