WELLSBURG - The past and present service of America's military will be reflected at the Brooke County Veterans Memorial Park Foundation's annual dinner-dance, April 28.
George Lauck of Wellsburg, a Purple Heart recipient who served in Italy during World War II, will be honored as the group's Veteran of the Year, carrying on a tradition begun by the group with the recognition of John Chernenko and Annabelle Hayward in previous years.
Ryan Weld of Wellsburg, an Air Force Reserve officer who returned last year from reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, will be the guest speaker. Weld used Facebook and a series of columns in the Brooke Scene to relate his experiences, good and bad, to Americans back home.
"We want to welcome everyone again to join us in honoring all of our veterans, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice," said Nancy Strope, the foundation's vice president and chairman of its fundraising committee.
Tickets are $25 per person and $45 per couple, and reservations should be made by calling (304) 670-6471 no later than Monday.
Proceeds will go to efforts to establish a park within Brooke Hills Park honoring all Brooke County veterans and memorializing those who died while serving in military conflicts dating from World War I to the present.
Plans call for the park to include a granite wall with polished front divided into five sections, each bearing the insignia of a military branch and bearing the names of local service members who lost their lives while serving their country.
The group is seeking sponsors for granite pavers, each 8 by 18 inches, that will form a patio for the park, which will be established by the paddle boat pond at Brooke Hills Park. For a $150 donation, individuals or groups may arrange for a paver to be inscribed in memory or honor of anyone, including veterans or family members.
Individuals may sponsor the pavers through the foundation's website at www.brookeveteranspark.org or by calling (304) 670-2224.
Howard Armstrong, the foundation's president, said the park also will include a bronze statue created by Tim Schmalz, a Canadian sculptor whose work includes sculptures for the Mother Theresa Memorial in Calcutta, India; the American Soldiers Memorial in Walkhill, N.Y.; and the Fallen Firefighters Memorial Monument in Ontario.
A drawing will be held at the dinner for a miniature replica donated by Schmalz of a statue of Joseph, Mary and the infant Jesus that he created for a Catholic shrine at Indian River, Michigan.
Schmalz presented a miniature of the same statue to Pope John Paul II, and it has been added to its collection of modern spiritual art.
The winners of the piece and a 50-50 drawing will be announced at the dinner.
Chances also will be sold at the dinner and up to Memorial Day for a July 7-8 weekend get-away that includes dinner and a show, featuring country singer David Alan Coe, at the Pepsi-Cola Roadhouse, two nights and breakfast at the Weirton Holiday Inn and dinner at Undo's.
Armstrong said fundraising for the park has been very productive, thanks to the generosity of many area businesses, groups and individuals, and plans call for ground to be broken for the park on Veterans Day.
Strope said the Night at the Races fundraiser held in March raised nearly $4,000 for the cause, and another, this time followed by a dance, is planned for Oct. 27.
The park was inspired by Marine Lance Cpl. Michael J. Smith, who was killed in a skirmish while serving in Iraq in 2004.
Joan Nicholson, Smith's aunt, suggested it after Armstrong commented, at a community memorial service following his death, that tribute should be paid to all of Brooke County's fallen servicemen.
Nicholson offered to assist with fundraising efforts and has remained involved as a member of the foundation's board of directors.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)