MASON, W.Va. — A proposal for a veteran’s memorial park to be placed in the city of Mason, W.Va., has been making its way through Mason County.
A group of citizens have come together to form a committee to bring recognition and honor to fallen servicemen and women from the area.
“What we’re trying to do, it’s going to be called Mason County Veterans Memorial,” said Steve Halstead, who started working on the project in October 2021. “We’re going to do it where the old [Pomeroy] bridge set on the West Virginia side.”
Halstead said the proposed project, Operations Mason County Veterans Memorial, would be completed in two phases and cost an estimated $500,000 to complete.
Money for the project will be gathered through fundraisers, with some from throughout the nation, Halstead said.
“We’re just beginning,” Halstead said. “This is something that we’re not just going tri-county wide. We are going statewide and nationwide.”
The first phase of the project would be to honor and recognize servicemen and servicewomen from the county who have been Congressional Medal of Honor recipients. Halstead said there are currently seven from the county, including Jimmy Stewart.
Stewart was an Army veteran born in West Columbia, W.Va. and graduated from Middleport High School in Meigs County, Ohio. Stewart was a staff sergeant and member of the U.S. Army’s Company B, Second Battalion, First Cavalry Division, who perished in battle during the Vietnam War.
“I’ve actually talked to guys that were on the battlefield that said that if it [wasn’t] for Jimmy Stewart, they wouldn’t be here today,” Halstead said.
As previously reported by Ohio Valley Publishing, the Bridge of Honor connecting Pomeroy, Ohio and Mason, honors Staff Sgt. Stewart, of Mason County, with family from Meigs County, Ohio, and Gen. James V. Hartinger and Cpl. Edward A. Bennett, both of Meigs County. Both Stewart and Bennett were Congressional Medal of Honor recipients and Hartinger was a four-star general.
According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society (CMOHS) website, Stewart fought alone for more than four hours and endured three attacks, as his fellow soldiers lay wounded after a surprise attack. He was able to hold off the enemy until reinforcements arrived and the wounded could be recovered and evacuated.
“Stewart’s indomitable courage, in the face of overwhelming odds, stands as a tribute to himself and an inspiration to all men of his unit. His actions were in the highest traditions of the U.S. Army and the Armed Forces of his country,” said Stewart’s Medal of Honor citation from West Virginia State Senator Oshel Craigo, according to the CMOHS.
Stewart received a posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor for the bravery he exhibited that saved his fellow soldiers on August 24, 1967.
Halstead said it is their hope to dedicate the first bronze statue in the park to Stewart.
“The first phase of this will be to honor Jimmy and then the names of our fallen veterans who were lost in battle,” Halstead said. “The names of our POWs [prisoners of war] and MIAs [missing in action] [and] recognize the six branches of service.”
Halstead said the committee has been working with Mason City Council and have been in touch with the state government in West Virginia to help secure the location of the park.
The potential spot is a “little grassy knoll” located beside of the Bridge of Honor and near Farmer’s Bank, Halstead said.
The second phase of the project will be to honor all of those that have served from Mason County.
“That’ll be the second phase, honoring our veterans from World War One up to present day that have been honorably discharged,” Halstead said.
Halstead has been in contact with those who were with Stewart the day of the attack and said they are in full support of the statue to honor the fallen soldier.
The Point Pleasant American Legion Post 23 is the nonprofit/fundraising sponsor for the project. A Facebook page, Mason County WV Veterans Memorial, has been created to gather support and keep the community up to date on the project.
Those interested in getting involved with the project can contact Steve Halstead at 304-895-3691.
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Brittany Hively is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Follow her on Twitter @britthively; reach her at (740) 446-2342 ext 2555.