After many years, weeds and shrubs had overtaken Waylon Griffin’s yard in Central Austin. The 83-year-old Korean War veteran loves to garden, his daughter said. But as he’s gotten older, he struggles with balance, and it’s been hard to keep up.
The Austin Code Department had been notified about the home as it fell into disrepair. When officials discovered it was a veteran who lived there, instead of issuing tickets, they assembled a team to help.
On Sunday morning, while Griffin was off at his daughter’s house, a group of about 50 people, including youth volunteers from the Austin Police Department’s Explorers program and employees from Home Depot tended to the overgrown lawn, clearing away brush and trimming trees as a way to say thank you to a man who gave so much to his country.
“It makes me cry with appreciation,” said Sherri Fowler, Griffin’s only daughter, holding back tears. “I’m just so grateful.”
Home Depot supplied labor and materials as part of its Team Depot volunteer program, which supports community projects, particularly for veterans. The Explorers, a program that mentors kids on careers in law enforcement, led the work.
“It makes me feel really good because I know he served for us,” said 16-year-old Alyssa Mancias, a student at Brentwood Christian School who wants to be an FBI agent. “Now we are going to serve back.”
Griffin arrived after lunch with family, and he was surprised and overjoyed to see the tangle in his yard had been manicured and replaced by fresh flower beds.
“My goodness alive,” he said as he stepped onto his driveway. “It is totally unexpected.”
Honor Flight Austin also surprised Griffin, who goes by “Griff,” with a trip to Washington, D.C., as part of a program that escorts veterans through the nation’s capital for a powerful, healing experience it calls the “trip of a lifetime.”
Griffin will make the trip this fall.
“What a way to say thank you for the men and women of the Korean War that is said to be the forgotten war,” said Allen Bergeron, who works for the city’s veterans services office. “We are going to tell him that he is not forgotten and that we appreciate him.”
Griffin was a corporal in the U.S. Air Force from 1955 to 1959. He was stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base near Bossier City, La., where he kept track of all the bombers during the Korean War.
After he left the service, Griffin went back to school at the University of Texas and got his Ph.D. in marketing. He was a longtime professor at UT-Permian Basin before he retired to Austin.
Griffin has owned his home on West 48th Street since the late 1960s.
On Saturday, he looked at the property with light in his eyes.
“It hasn’t looked this good in years,” he said.