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Vets say memorial is long overdue

November 09, 2000

Vets say memorial is long overdue



By LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer


For the 60 World War II veterans Tom Huntsberry helped lay to rest this year, the national monument being built in Washington comes too late.

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"It should have been done a long time ago," said Huntsberry, 68, of Martinsburg, W.Va., who organizes a volunteer honor guard that fires a salute and plays "Taps" at the funerals of area veterans.

A groundbreaking ceremony will be held Saturday on the Mall in Washington for the $100 million monument expected to be completed by Memorial Day 2003.

Veterans in the Tri-State area agreed with Huntsberry that the memorial is long overdue.

"I think it's a long time coming," said Matthew Koons, 33, VFW commander in Greencastle, Pa. "Your veterans are your primary asset in this country. It should be a symbol of the sacrifice they gave their country"

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Area veterans noted that monuments were built to honor veterans of the Korean and Vietnam wars, which were fought after World War II.

"Now they're finally getting around to it," said Joe Bock, quartermaster and past commander of the VFW in Waynesboro, Pa.

Bock, 72, was a Navy Seabee during the war. He feels bad that many of his comrades will not live long enough to see the memorial.

"It's unfortunate that it was put off so long. Maybe as a whole, maybe the country itself took World War II for granted," Bock said.

Many World War II veterans are in their 70s and 80s. An estimated 255 World War II veterans in the Tri-State have died this year, according to obituaries in The Herald-Mail newspaper.

"A lot of these men and women will never see that monument," Koons said.

The effort to build the monument has been plagued by protests over its design and location, on the mall between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.

A Berkeley Springs, W.Va., World War II veteran who visited the site recently said he believes its appropriate.

"I think it's going to be a good addition to the Mall," said Ed Middlekauff, 77.

State governments were asked to contribute $1 for every World War II veteran from their state. Maryland gave $250,000, Pennsylvania gave $2 million and West Virginia gave $23,455, said Betsy Glick, a spokeswoman for the memorial project.

Tri-State area veterans organizations have also contributed to the $92 million already raised nationwide for the memorial.

There's a collection jar behind the bar at the William D. Byron Post 1936 Veterans of Foreign Wars in Hagerstown, said Commander Glenn Trumpower.

Trumpower said he may hold a dinner fund-raiser to take advantage of the National VFW's offer to match local contributions dollar-for-dollar.

Trumpower, the youngest of 15 children, had six brothers who served in World War II. All came home safely.

"I know what it's all about," said Trumpower, 65, who served two tours in Vietnam.

Many Tri-State area veterans said they plan to attend local Veterans Day services instead of Saturday's groundbreaking. But many said they would like to visit once it's finished.

Koons said there will never be too many veterans memorials.

"They can't make enough of them," Koons said.

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