Former POWs pay visit to Brooke memorial

WELLSBURG – Members of the Ohio Valley Barbed Wire Chapter of American Ex-Prisoners of War commented on a recent visit to the Brooke County Veterans Memorial Park and heard about transportation available to healthcare facilities for veterans at a meeting held July 10 at Staffileno’s on the River.

Laura Beckelhimer, deputy director of the Brooke County Senior Center, told the group a van provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs transports veterans from Brooke and Hancock counties to VA facilities in Pittsburgh Monday through Friday.

The van holds six passengers and arrangements are made, on a first-come, first-serve basis, by calling (304) 527-3410.

Beckelhimer said the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs provided the van and assumes the cost for its fuel, maintenance and a daily stipend for its driver.

She said the program is currently down to one driver and would benefit from another person with the flexibility to transport the veterans to their medical appointments, which sometimes can involve leaving at 4:30 a.m. and returning to the senior center 12 hours later.

Earlier this month, John Chernenko, the chapter’s president and a member of the Brooke County Veterans Memorial Park Foundation, arranged for members to visit the park.

Pete Lallone of Wellsburg said among the 186 fallen service members whose names are inscribed on the park’s granite wall are family members, including his brother George, who was killed at the age of 21 while serving in Italy.

Lallone recalled receiving the news through a telegram sent by his parents while he was undergoing basic training in Louisiana.

Lallone and Chernenko both were captured by the Germans while fighting in the Battle of the Bulge.

Located at Brooke Hills Park, the veterans memorial park’s granite wall also bears the names of 27 Brooke County servicemen who were prisoners of war during World War II and the Korean War.

Boyd Engle of Glen Dale said of the monument, “That was a very impressive memorial. It looked like something big cities would have. I have told my friends about it.”

A former Martins Ferry schoolteacher and principal, Engle was an assistant driver in the Army’s 755th Tank Battalion when he was captured in Italy during World War II. Engle said he was struck by shrapnel in the chest and leg, but fortunately it didn’t hit any vital organs.

“It’s beautiful,” said Bill Daniel of Wheeling, who served in an Army infantry unit and faced the guns of a German tank before his capture by the enemy during World War II.

Mike Craig, veterans service officer for the West Virginia Department of Veterans Assistance, said of the park, “It was excellent, very well done. You could tell many people put a lot of work into it.”

Chernenko said the group plans to place a wreath at the park in September in observance of National Prisoner of War Day.

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