PLEASANT VALLEY — What’s been called “The Forgotten War” was remembered on Saturday in Marion County.
In a proud and patriotic moment, flags were raised into the air at the Marion County Korean War Veterans Memorial in Pleasant Valley.
A milestone for the memorial, the flag raising ceremony drew veterans and dignitaries. Flags representing the branches of the armed services were raised in addition to the American flag, the POW-MIA flag, the 201st Field Artillery Regiment flag, the City of Fairmont flag, the Marion County flag and the State of West Virginia flag.
John Harney, commander of Hershel “Woody Williams VFW Post 7048, said he appreciated the memorial and the driving force behind it, Columbus Carpenter.
“We forget that in June 1950, this conflict started and she’s still going on,” he said. “We’ve been there a long time. My father fought there, my uncle fought there, my friends fought there. One of these days we hope it comes to an end, and this memorial honors every one of them who served and I appreciate Columbus, I appreciate this memorial and I hope we get ‘er done as quickly as we can and thank you all for coming out and showing this support. We really appreciate it.”
Marion County Commission President Randy Elliott, another speaker, said the county has donated in excess of $100,000 to the memorial since its inception, as well as the property for the memorial, which he noted is at a prime location by Interstate 79 and the Connector.
“We help all we can,” he said.
He heaped praise on Carpenter, noting his tireless efforts to make the memorial a reality.
“He has got the biggest heart and the most effort I’ve ever seen anybody in trying to get this Korean War veterans plaza up here and the completion of this project,” he said. “I thank him. He’s a hard worker, tireless. I don’t know anybody so dedicated to a project that he has been to this project, and I just think the world of him. He’s been wonderful to work with. We owe him a big round of applause and thank him for everything he’s done, sometimes by himself.”
Elliott noted that county commissioner Rick Garcia was also in attendance, but county commissioner Ernie VanGilder wasn’t able to make it because he is recovering from some health issues. West Virginia House of Delegates member Linda Longstreth called Carpenter her “best, best friend.”
“If it wasn’t for this gentleman, this wouldn’t have happened,” she said, standing beside him.
She urged everyone to thank Carpenter and all veterans for what they have done.
Longstreth said the memorial is “a wonderful monument.”
“And it’s going to be for everyone, not just the Korean War veterans,” she said. “So, it’s for everyone to come up and to visit and to see people that you’ve known.”
Fairmont City Council members Tom Mainella and Barry Bledsoe spoke on behalf of the City.
“It’s just good to see this,” Bledsoe said.
Noting the POW-MIA flag was one of the flags raised, he urged people to not forget those still missing in action. Bledsoe also thanked Carpenter, saying he appreciated him for his work.
“Today, too many times our flag is desecrated, it’s stomped on, it’s burned. People take a knee. It just makes me sick,” Bledsoe said. “That flag does not represent what they say it represents. That flag represents our country and those who fought and were injured and died to make sure we have the freedoms we have today.”
Bledsoe said it’s important to make sure children understand “the importance of the flag and what it means.”
“I just want to say ‘thank you all,’ you veterans,” Mainella said. “It’s for people like you that we enjoy the freedoms we have here in this wonderful country today, so thank you all for your service.”
Mainella also thanked Carpenter.
Carpenter, who provided the welcome and read his poem about Korea, was thankful for the attendance.
“I appreciate you all coming out for this,” Carpenter told everyone. He asked everyone to “remember our veterans.”
He also said that donations are still needed for the memorial.
“We’re getting low on our funds, we’ve put a lot of money into this,” he said.
A handout provided at the event states that donations can be sent to MVB, 301 Virginia Ave., Fairmont, W.Va. 26554.
Also attending and taking part in the flag raising was Life Scout Ben Singleton, 16, a student at East Fairmont High School, who helped with work on the memorial as part of his Eagle Scout project.
“I’m very proud that it’s finally all come together, we finally got all the flags up,” Ben said, when asked for comment.
Ben’s father, Rick, said his son led a group project for Boy Scout Troop 7 at Valley Chapel in Pleasant Valley. The work involved digging out bases for the flag poles, pouring concrete, building a retaining wall, and bringing in river rock and gravel, he said.
“It’s good to see more progress onto the memorial,” Rick said. “It’s just one step closer to getting the whole thing done.”
Pastor Jim Zinn provided the opening prayer, Franchesca Rose Aloi sang The National Anthem and Ret. U.S. Army Sgt. David Tucker read “Ragged Old Flag.” VFW Post 7048 Honor Guard fired the volley, after which Taps was played.