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Group plans lasting salute to citizen soldiers

December 03, 2006|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - A volunteer group wants to honor all past, present and future citizen soldiers at the Air National Guard's 167th Airlift Wing base south of Martinsburg by erecting a minuteman statute there.

The statute will be the first of its kind in the state, said Maj. Gen. Allen E. Tackett, the West Virginia National Guard adjutant general.

"We'd love to have that at all of our armories and bases across the state," Tackett said Friday.

Members of The Minuteman Committee, a nonprofit organization formed to undertake the project, said Thursday that the monument is to be placed near the future entrance to the military base off U.S. 11.

"We want this to be seen by everyone coming onto the base," said retired Col. Charles J. "Chuck" Enders, co-chairman of the committee and former 167th Airlift Wing squadron commander.

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The monument is expected to be dedicated Aug. 4, 2007.

The height of the monument will be at least 12 feet, including the base of the life-size minuteman statue, Enders said.

He and the other four committee members are volunteers with the 167th Airlift Wing's Family Readiness Group.

Minutemen were members of the American citizens army during the American Revolution. Minutemen were so-named because they were ready for military service at a minute's notice. The militias they formed have evolved into the National Guard units of today.

More than half of the money needed for the monument has been raised, and Enders said he hopes to enlist the support of area organizations and community groups in the coming months.

Members of the committee said they expect the project to cost about $55,000.

The idea to honor guard members for their service literally was born out of turbulence, said Enders' wife, Joy Enders.

In July 2003, members of the guard unit returning from Puerto Rico in a C-130 cargo plane after a nine-month deployment were injured when a blast of violent air tossed the soldiers about, Joy Enders said.

The C-130 managed to land safely in Virginia Beach, Va., which is home of the 203rd Red Horse Flight unit of the Virginia National Guard. The injured were taken to the hospital there, she said.

Members of the Red Horse unit's Family Readiness Group went to the hospital to assist in the crisis. That prompted Joy Enders and Susan Sanders, the Airlift Wing's family program coordinator, to visit their counterparts in Virginia Beach in May 2004 and thank them for their assistance.

While there, Joy Enders said, they saw the Red Horse unit's memorial, featuring a minuteman statute in honor of guard members who died in a plane crash in March 2001.

"The day they got back from this," Charles Enders said, "we were calling the artist," sculptor Gareth Curtiss of Washington state.

In the fall of 2005, the committee approached Tackett, who gave the project formal approval earlier this year.

"If they thought they could make this happen, I thought it would be great for the base," Tackett said.

While navigating federal regulations for a project on federal property, Charles Enders, co-chair Christy Miller, Carrean Klungle, Jo-Anne Gain and Joy Enders set out to raise money.

"We had no idea how many hours this was going to take," Enders said.

To raise money, Enders has designed a series of medallions, one to commemorate each aircraft operated by the 167th Airlift Wing's members over the years. Each coin sells for $10.

Images of the C-5 Galaxy and the plane it replaced, the C-130, have been stamped on 1,000 coins. Each medallion bears a color image of the American flag and stars separate the words "past," "present" and "future" around the rim on one side.

"We're almost out of the C-130s," Enders said.

Coins with the C-121 Constellation, C-119, F-86 and P-51 are in the works. Each aircraft is depicted flying over the converging Potomac and Shenandoah rivers at Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

"We've had an overwhelming response from the people on the base," and support from businesses with ties to military base operations, Enders said.

The group also is selling limited edition lithographs, signed by Curtiss, of the minuteman statute.

Miller said the project is an opportunity for her to show how proud she is of her husband, Staff Sgt. Donald Miller, and other guard members, for their service to the nation.

More information about The Minuteman Committee project can be obtained by calling 304-263-3606.

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