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Mont Alto dedicates memorial to veterans

November 14, 1999

By DON AINES / Staff Writer, Chambersburg


MONT ALTO, Pa. - A memorial to veterans was dedicated Sunday afternoon in Mont Alto Park, more than half a century after another war memorial disappeared.

About 100 Mont Alto residents, veterans and guests attended the ceremony for the stone marker honoring all veterans from this community of 1,500. It includes a piece of a memorial dedicated in 1922 to honor veterans of World War I, according to borough Councilman Douglas Duffey.

"This top plaque came out of the original memorial," Duffey told the audience. It reads "World War Memorial" and Duffey said it had been part of a monument at the town's old train station on Penn Street.

That memorial, which included a small howitzer and flagpole, remained there until the next world war, when the town held a scrap metal drive, depositing all the metal at the memorial. "When they came to gather the scrap they took everything except that plaque," Duffey said.

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At some point the plaque itself was removed. There the matter might have ended but for the efforts of former borough police Chief Charlie Mills. Duffey said Mills held community yard sales and other fund-raisers, collecting about $750 for a new monument.

That was about 10 years ago, and the story might once again have ended there but for Duffey. He became a council member about two and a half years ago and found out about the memorial fund.

Duffey, who noted he is not a veteran, approached Ken Gilland of Gilland Memorials in Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., asking for help in erecting a new memorial. From there, "Everything fell into place," Duffey said. "It was so cool."

Gilland refurbished the old bronze plaque and donated a new one with an inscription honoring all veterans. Gene Bowman of Sabillasville, Md., and Eubert Burgess of Smithsburg, Md., donated their labor and stone for the monument and several other businesses donated cement, flowers and mulch.

"I'd build them all day long for the veterans," said Bowman, who estimated the monument's base would have cost about $5,000. He and Burgess are both veterans, they said.

"Anytime it comes down to the veterans, I'm willing. ... If it wasn't for them, we wouldn't be here," Gilland said. Also a veteran, he estimated the cost of the plaques at about $2,200.

"A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing he cares about more than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance to be free," Franklin County Veterans Affairs Director Robert Harris said during the dedication.

Harris said anyone who would desecrate the flag should first ask the permission of a veteran, "perhaps someone who shared a foxhole with Claude M. Jones shortly before he was killed on Nov. 8, 1943, in Italy."

Jones was a Mont Alto man who died in World War II.

"You need the permission of a mother ... such as Delores Cook, whose son Tom gave his life while trying to save the lives of three wounded comrades on a hot (Landing Zone) of Chu Chi in Vietnam," Harris said of another Mont Alto veteran.

A Veterans of Foreign Wars honor guard fired off a 21-gun salute as the flag was raised at the monument and buglers played "Taps."

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