GALLIPOLIS — VFW 4464 Honor Guard addressed the Gallipolis City Commission Tuesday evening, pushing forward with efforts to place veteran memorial banners on poles in Gallipolis in a process that first started in 2016.
Privilege of the floor was given to Bill Mangus, commander of VFW 4464.
“In front of you here is a proposal and each and every one of you has this proposal,” said Mangus to commissioners. “This proposal is four years-old. With us tonight, we have every veterans organizations from Gallia County present tonight. What this program outlines is what we are requesting to do…Photos (banners) to be displayed, five periods of time have been selected to recognize major military events. Photos to remain on display for one week, seven days on each event. Number one, we have Vietnam Veterans Day, March 30. Number two, we have Memorial Day, the last Monday of May. Three, we have Independence Day, the fourth of July. Number four, is POW-MIA Day, third Friday in September. It’s very special to us veterans and then we have Veterans Day in November, Nov. 11.”
Mangus said the VFW post would shoulder the bill for efforts to hang a series of photo banners from poles within Gallipolis municipal limits commemorating Gallia servicemen and women throughout the county’s history and rotate those banners with each holiday setup. Mangus said the post had taken over 600 signatures from members of the public in favor of hanging the banners.
“When we first approached this, we were wanting to do something in the (Gallipolis) City Park,” said Mangus. “Apparently, there’s some friction there that is too political with some people. That’s fine. We chose Second Avenue and would like the light poles on Second Avenue.”
Mangus asked Keith Jeffers, local representative of Disabled American Veterans, if the organization would discuss joining the banner effort at the commission meeting and Jeffers replied that he would discuss it with his organization before a decision was made.
Mangus said during the meeting he felt those supporting the banners had the majority support of veterans groups in the county but had halted efforts in July 2016.
“We were very frustrated because we couldn’t believe that nobody would want to put these veterans pictures up,” said Mangus. “Mr. Sang (Commissioner Beau Sang), you asked for weight (of the banners and hanging equipment). It’s less than two pounds. The brackets are aluminum and the pictures are weatherproof…It takes basically a C-clamp at the topside and one on the bottom. It’s definitely not heavy. In comparison to your flowerpots on the poles, I feel those outweigh this considerably.”
Mangus lauded the veteran history of Gallia County and introduced Bobette Braxton of the John Gee Black Historical Center. She in turn described the history of Major Henry Norman, a Gallia veteran who once flew as a Tuskegee Airmen in World War II. Braxton had approached Mangus to see if Norman could be included among those the VFW seeks to memorialize in banners.
“We’ve researched this out,” said Mangus. “It’s not just about us standing up here…We feel that this (commission) has a moral obligation to work with us because we want to do what the rest of the State of Ohio is doing.
“We’ve never been non-supporters of it,” said Commissioner Steven Wallis. “You guys told us you would get the agreement of the five (veteran) groups and that you would return with that agreement and you’re back again still without it. We’re supportive of it but we don’t want to pit one veterans group against another…”
“That’s a good point,” said Mangus and he asked colleague honor guard member and pastor of the New Life Lutheran Church Michael Giese to address the commissioner’s concern.
“This particular piece seems to be unusual,” said Giese. “Having come to Gallia, my hometown is about the size of Gallipolis and has two veterans organization. Gallipolis has five. It seemed odd to me. Why do you have five veterans organizations? It’s simple. You have different vision statements for each organization and missions. The goal is the same, taking care of veterans. How they take care of veterans is different. Therefore, you have different personalities and ideas of how to take care of the veterans…You can’t run an organization having a hundred percent consensus all the time. It just doesn’t work. If we sat and listened to your business here, are you in 100 percent consensus all the time? No, you each have different ways of doing things…If you have even one of the veteran organizations that’s going to stand up and say ‘Nope, I’m not going to do it’ then is that the way business should be done? No, because then that’s minority rule and that’s not the way to run a city, veteran organizations or any group.”
“But that is what you guys said you would do for us,” said Wallis. “You’re accomplishing that and talking with the other groups and you’re almost there. I think you’re ahead of the game. If you guys can come to a consensus on what you want to do, I think you’ll find we’ll be proud to help. “
“I’m simply saying, Sir, with all due respect, if that consensus is not able to be achieved, because we’ve been working on this for four years, the majority of not only the veteran organizations and I would tend to say the majority of individuals in Gallipolis would say the same thing. That we want to have this done and let’s get it done,” said Giese.
Gallipolis City Manager Gene Greene disagreed and said he had been approached with concerns from a percentage of other Gallipolis residents not in favor of hanging the banners. He also expressed concern with the ongoing degradation of light poles in the municipality and the need to fix them. Greene said that he was also a Vietnam veteran and was concerned over how to handle the matter when he felt “half” the city wanted the banners and the other “half” did not.
Commissioner Beau Sang spoke and said he would like to support the hanging of the banners, had heard other groups might be interested in also hanging displays on them and wanted to know what kind of regulations could be brought forward in order to accomplish that goal. City Solicitor Brynn Saunders Noe said she had recently met the law director for Grove City, a town which reportedly also hangs veteran memorial banners, and said that she would reach out to the director in hopes of learning about their regulatory process for such banners.
Commissioners asked the VFW group to give them time to see what Noe could learn and what the DAV would answer.
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342.