On Aug. 17, the Brooke County Veteran's Memorial Park Foundation Inc. held its 2011 fundraising kickoff luncheon in Wellsburg. The luncheon was supported by a cross section of business owners and residents.
The luncheon featured check presentations by both Chesapeake Energy ($15,000) and Main Street Bank ($10,000). Chesapeake Energy sponsored the lunch, and Main Street Bank sponsored the new brochure that was sent to every resident and business in Brooke County. As president of the foundation, I would like to thank all those who attended, with a special thanks to Chesapeake Energy and Main Street Bank.
The foundation was formed more than seven years ago after the tragic death of Brooke High School graduate Michael J. Smith. Michael, a Marine, paid the ultimate sacrifice while defending his country in Iraq. While his death was the impetus for forming the foundation, we soon decided that it was time to honor all who have served in the military from Brooke County and to memorialize those who gave their lives during World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq/Afghanistan. There are more than 150 men from Brooke County who died while serving their country. While on many occasions we have paid tribute to all those who have served, Brooke County has never officially paid tribute to those individuals who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
We often forget that these very young men and women (many who were mere teenagers) voluntarily put themselves in harm's way to defend our country. They did not ask "why" - they simply knew there was a job to be done and it was their duty to stand up and do it.
Many left as innocent teenagers and either never came home or came home with serious mental or physical wounds, most of whom accepted their situation and moved on to raise families and became productive members and leaders in our community. Many, like my father-in-law Marine William Lasch, who spent four years in the Pacific and never once in four years saw his family or fiancee. Many, like my close friend Robert "Moose" Mossgrove, who gave his life in Vietnam while refusing to leave the side of his mortally wounded lieutenant. Many, like John Chernenko, Tony Cipriani, Ed Jackfert and many others from Brooke County who spent years in prisoner of war camps and suffered mental and physical torture at the hands of our enemies. There are many, many more examples of bravery and sacrifice that need and should be shared with young and old alike. Let us not forget the sacrifices that these men and women made for us.
The Brooke County Veteran's Memorial Foundation admittedly has struggled to bring this project to reality. The original memorial location had to be changed, the design has changed on three occasions, the budget had to be adjusted to meet current financial and economic conditions and the group's leadership has changed. However, a core group of individuals has never given up and we are proud to say that we are well on our way in making the memorial a reality.
However, it will not and cannot become a reality without the continued support from those who have generously given, and without the financial support from those who for one reason or another have chosen not to support the project.
We certainly understand that in our current economic times and high unemployment in the Ohio Valley that some simply cannot financially support the project at this time. However, we find it difficult to understand why those who can have thus far chosen not to.
It is frustrating enough to know that our government has thus far chosen to give very little financial support, especially, when they are the first to ask our youth to serve and support them at the polls. It is very difficult to accept the most common answer we receive - "Due to the current budget crisis, there are no funds available to recognize veterans and projects such as this."
I ask, would a budget crisis prevent our politicians from asking our youth to sacrifice life and limb to protect us from terrorism? I think not. Does it seem there are funds available for other less deserving, but more politically expedient, projects? I think so.
Again, we would like to thank those individuals and businesses who have supported the foundation over the years. I would also like to ask all residents of Brooke County and those businesses who have benefited from our veterans as workers or customers to take a moment and ask yourself this simply question: "Can I, or should I, make a small financial sacrifice to support those who have supported and defended me over the years?" If the question is yes, please send your donation to: The Brooke County Veteran's Memorial Park Foundation Inc. PO Box 291 Wellsburg WV 26070. If you have any questions regarding your donation you can call me at (304) 670-2224. I can also discuss with you our Memorial Paver and Pledge program that will make it easy to give to this great cause.
In closing, I would like to say that it is time for Brooke County to come together and stand united in the cause to forever recognize those men and women who have served and sacrificed for our country, served and died so that we could grow up, raise families, get an education, work hard and enjoy the many freedoms that we have today. Please remember, "Freedom is not Free" and "All gave some, and some gave All". Thank you, and God bless America.
(Armstrong is president of the Brooke County Veterans' Memorial Park Foundation Inc.)