According to those who knew him best, Maj. Ronald Wayne Culver was not only a dedicated serviceman, but also a dedicated contributor to the El Dorado community. In his memory and honor, the Hero 5K Run-Walk at the South Arkansas Community College Outdoor Expo has been named for him this year.
The 5K is one component of the annual Expo that seeks to remind audiences of the role of national and community service. The event's date each year falls near the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, and portions of the event center around the Arkansas 9.11 Memorial located at the El Dorado Conference Center on the campus of South Arkansas Community College.
Culver was an El Dorado resident and a member of the U.S. Army National Guard deployed to Iraq in 2010 when he was killed after his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb. Culver, second in command of the Shreveport, La.-based 2nd Squadron of the 108th Cavalry Regiment, had been in the military for 22 years, with three separate tours of duty in Iraq dating all the way back to Desert Storm in the early 1990s.
He was highly-decorated during his years in the Guard, receiving among other honors the Combat Action Badge, Purple Heart, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Overseas Service Ribbon, Louisiana War Cross, Louisiana Cross of Merit and Louisiana Commendation Medal.
His unit responded numerous times to state emergencies, including Hurricane Katrina and several others.
"I will always remember his sense of humor, sound counsel and his constant concern for soldiers," squadron commander Lt. Col. William Rachal said at the time of Culver's death.
His full-time job was as the accounting supervisor at AmerCable in El Dorado, and he volunteered time with Camp Fire, 4-H and Boy Scouts of America. Culver was an Eagle Scout himself.
"Naming the Hero 5K for Major Wayne Culver is one way our community can continue his life and legacy of leadership and service," race organizer Dr. Sterling Claypoole said. "What an honor to know that a true American Hero was, and still is, a part of the El Dorado community."
Culver's wife Tracey Culver and daughter Michelle were in attendance for a private meeting recently in which a promotional poster bearing the late major's image first was revealed.
"We thank Tracy Culver and her family for allowing us to recognize Major Culver's service to our country," Outdoor Expo chair Greg Withrow said. "It is an honor for us to name this race in his memory as we recognize his courageous spirit in preserving our country's freedom."
The race will begin on the northeast corner of the El Dorado Conference Center property at 7:30 on the morning of the Outdoor Expo on Sept. 14. The cost to enter is $20 by Sept. 9 and $25 afterward up through race day. For more information, visit www.southark.edu/expo.