OCEANA – To assist with the costs of the Wyoming County Veteran's Memorial now under construction, Governor Jim Justice delivered a check for $26,000, from the Governor's Contingency Fund, Wednesday to Denny Lester, one of the project leaders.
Among the audience members were numerous veterans, several in wheelchairs, and one of whom was 93 years old.
“Freedom is never really free,” the governor emphasized.
“These people, these veterans have given us everything, everything we have,” Justice said.
Justice told the group that his dad had grown up in Kopperston and his mother in Cyclone, both locations only a few miles from Oceana.
He recalled visiting his grandparents at both places when he was growing up.
“This area of the world is me in every single way,” Justice said.
“I know a lot of people are still hurting, a lot of people here in the county are still hurting,” the governor said.
“You've got a governor who doesn't want a thing for himself.
“You've got a governor who wants to do great stuff for you,” he said.
The governor also pledged to participate in the memorial unveiling ceremonies on Veterans Day.
The ceremonies will also include the West Virginia Vietnam Veterans Mobile Wall, which includes the names of West Virginians who were killed in action, prisoners of war, and those still missing.
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Spearheaded by the Veterans Support Group in partnership with the Disabled American Veterans, Mullens American Legion Post, and Veterans of Foreign Wars, the groups raised the $75,000 needed for the project in seven months, Lester said.
Without community support, the veterans could not have raised the money in such a short time, Lester emphasized.
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Backed by a black brick commemorative wall, the memorial will include three six-foot-high “uprights” that will carry the names of those who died in the designated war, along with memorial benches, and insignias of all the military branches – all in a semi-circle design.
The “uprights,” located in front of the commemorative wall, will include only Wyoming County veterans who died in combat, Lester explained. County veterans who died in the Civil War, World War I and II, Korea, Vietnam, and Middle Eastern conflicts will all be honored.
Five hundred black bricks will be included in the commemorative wall, each honoring a veteran – even those who do not or have never resided in Wyoming County.
The design will allow another 200 bricks to be added in the future, Lester said.
The memorial was designed in black to coincide with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., Lester noted. He visits the memorial annually.
“When you touch it, it touches you back,” Lester said.
“When families come to see their loved ones' names, it will touch them back,” he explained.
He hopes the county memorial will evoke the same emotions for veterans and their families.
“We want it to be healing, not only for service members, but for their families,” Lester emphasized.
Easy access is one of the main features of the project, Lester explained.
The memorial is located alongside state Rt. 10, across from Gilliland Park and the Veterans Flag Memorial in Oceana.
Additionally, the group is working to have the road by the memorial, and through Oceana, designated as the Veterans Memorial Highway.