Since 1963, North Carolina’s governors have reserved their highest honor, The Order of the Long Leaf Pine award, for those who have made significant contributions to the state and their communities through their exemplary service and exceptional accomplishments. This year, Walt Ward, a Buncombe County Government Veterans Services Officer, has been recognized for his efforts over the years to serve our community.
Veterans Service Officer | 2011-2021
By all accounts, Walt Ward is an exceptional man who has been committed to the service of others since the 1960s. Fresh out of college, Walt entered the workforce as a political advocate working to secure equitable voting rights for North Carolinians. Seeking additional experience, Walt accepted a two-year assignment in Tanzania with the Peace Corp followed by four years of service for the US Air Force. After his honorable discharge, Walt relocated to North Carolina seeking a return to advocacy work.
In 1972, Walt began working as a Claims Examiner for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Winston-Salem- the first of many jobs Walt would accept over the course of his career spent advocating for the Veterans of North Carolina. His CV boasts experience as a Claims Examiner, Disability Rating Specialist, Staff Trainer, Project Manager, and Political Organizer. By the time Walt retired from the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2002, he had become a decorated senior staff member with a reputation as a powerful advocate for the Veteran community.
Walt kept busy after retirement, volunteering his knowledge and 30 years of experience to support local Veteran-focused organizations and their clients in Buncombe County. In 2011, after encouragement from a friend, Walt accepted a position as a Veterans Service Officer (VSO) for Buncombe County Veterans Services because it would allow him to have a greater impact on the rural Veteran community. Thus began another 10-year chapter in Walt’s professional career. During his time with Buncombe County Health and Human Services, Walt secured millions of dollars for Veterans and their families, became a mentor to Veteran Services Staff, and was recognized by Veteran Services Departments state-wide as a consultant- always willing to help on a tough case to make sure every Veteran got the resources they deserved.
Walt retired again on December 31, 2021, having made an endless number of priceless contributions to Buncombe Veterans, their families, and Veteran Services Departments across the state. It is with great pride that we join the state of North Carolina in celebrating this incredible man as he becomes the newest recipient of The Order of the Long Leaf Pine award.
Photos of Walt Ward
The photos below are from the ceremony at the Buncombe County Commissioners meeting on March 1, 2022, honoring him for his service to Buncombe County and receiving the Order of the Long Leaf Pine from the State of North Carolina.