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Charlton Garden

The Daily Plant : Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Friends Of Charlton Garden Travel To Arlington National Cemetery To Honor Bronx War Hero

Sgt. Cornelius H. Charlton

On November 12, members of the Charlton family, dozens of veterans, the Friends of Charlton Garden and representatives from Parks boarded charter buses and headed to Virginia to witness a historic event. After more than half a century, Sgt. Cornelius H. Charlton was re-interred at Arlington National Cemetery in Section 40, Grave 300. Following the poignant military service, which included a 21-gun salute and a moving eulogy, over one hundred people attended a commemorative luncheon held at Fort Meyers Army Base. During the luncheon, members of the Charlton Family honored those who helped them realize their dream of having Sgt. Charlton buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

In 2004, a group of Bronx Veterans led by Leroy Archible and Robert Gumbs were inspired to care for Charlton Garden after they discovered it was named in honor of local war hero, Sgt. Cornelius H. Charlton. The land was originally acquired by the City of New York in 1916. Parks assumed jurisdiction in 1930 and the park opened in 1935. In 1952 the City Council passed a local law that named the park Sergeant Cornelius H. Charlton Playground. In 1987, the name was shortened to Charlton Playground, and later, Charlton Garden. Charlton Garden is currently in Phase I of a $1.8 million reconstruction thanks to the lobbying efforts of the Friends of Charlton Garden. Once completed, the park will be a memorial not only to Sgt. Charlton but to all veterans.

Cornelius H. Charlton was born on July 24, 1929 in West Virginia where he lived with his family until 1944 when they moved to the Bronx. In 1946 he enlisted in the then segregated U.S. Army. Sgt. Charlton, initially assigned to an engineering group, volunteered for combat duty with Company C in the 24th Infantry Regiment of the 25th Army Infantry Division, the last all-black regiment nicknamed the Buffalo Soldiers. On June 2, 1951 near the village of Chipo-ri, northeast of Seoul, Korea, his platoon met heavy resistance while attempting to take Hill 543. Sgt. Charlton took command when his platoon leader was wounded and led an assault against the hill. Despite being wounded by a grenade, he refused medical attention and continued to lead the charge, single-handedly attacking and disabling the last remaining enemy gun emplacement. In the process, he suffered a second grenade wound and sadly succumbed to his wounds, dying at the age of 21.

The year after his death, he was awarded a Medal of Honor, which meant he could be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, but he was instead buried in Bryant Memorial Cemetery near Pocahontas, Virginia. The cemetery eventually fell into disrepair, and in 1990 with the help of the Medal of Honor Society, Sgt. Charlton was re-interred in the American Legion Cemetery in Beckley, West Virginia. While Sgt. Charlton was now in a more suitable cemetery, he wasn’t given the burial that his acts of courage and his life’s ultimate sacrifice merited. Through the tireless efforts of the Charlton family and the Friends of Charlton Garden, with help from Congressmen Jose Serrano (D-NY) and Joe Courtney (D-CT), a grievous injustice has finally been corrected.

Written by Cynthia Lopez and Anthony Martinez

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