As per Grandma’s wishes, John-Boy helps organize “Hero Day,” an event honoring all of Jefferson County’s WWI veterans, both fallen and living. While doing research, he finds that Sheriff Ep Bridges was not only a veteran but a decorated hero; however when he approaches the sheriff about his war experiences he has no interest in recollecting those days, as the war emotionally scarred him with its bloodshed and horror. While in Richmond researching, John-Boy stirred the interest of a woman working for the Red Cross; it turns out the woman was an ambulance driver in the war and Ep’s first love – they are reunited on Walton’s Mountain and recall the lives during and after the war.
Honor Day also reopens the old wounds for John and Zeb as well – John’s brother, Ben, never survived the war nor made it back. He’s buried somewhere in France, and there is no grave for him as there for the other soldiers, until Ben and the boys construct a beautiful, hand-wrought bench with Ben’s name engraved on it: a small but sober reminder of the ones that never made it back.
This is another winner – a quiet, touching salute to the veterans of war while revealing more family history, the sort that isn’t talked about as often. Bridges speech to John Boy about war is a heartfelt reverie that has all the antiwar impact of All Quiet on the Western Front, a classic novel (also about WWI) whose TV adaptation Richard Thomas himself would star in two years later.
Ellen Corby’s absence still explained by having Grandma still in the hospital, “getting better.”