GALLIPOLIS — Gallia County veterans gathered at the Gallipolis City Commission meeting Tuesday night in the Gallipolis Municipal Building to discuss the possibility of hanging weather-resistant posters around Gallipolis City Park.
Some people, however, oppose the move because they believe existing memorials already serve that purpose.
According to City Commission President Tony Gallagher, VFW Post 4464 members last year approached the commission with the desire to place weather-resistant posters of past and present American military veterans along the light posts in the park. VFW members wishing to place the posters had trouble with companies committing to the production of the signs. Commissioners desired to see a demonstration copy of one of the posters, but VFW members were unable to produce a piece until recently.
“We went through four different companies,” said VFW Post 4464 Commander Bill Mangus. “We finally found the fourth company about two weeks ago and were able to get ready to order and get them made up. They actually came in from Pittsburgh and they went to a company in Chillicothe and then shipped them here.”
Jon Lynch, member of the Gallia Veteran Service Commission and a member of AMVETs, said if such posters were placed that it was a VFW initiative. Lynch investigated previous city commission meeting minutes to see if the project had been approved and found it had not but it had been discussed. Lynch said as a VSC board member, the group “would not take any side in this issue, but implementation of the project, if approved by the city, would be between the VFW and city commission.”
Lynch said John Thomas, executive director of the VSC, was approached by VFW members previously to read a statement asking county veterans if they were interested in hanging their posters. The VSC said it could not take a position on the poster hanging as no vote had been taken by the city commission. Thomas was supposedly asked to read the statement on Memorial Day activities for 2016. Because the posters had not been voted upon by the city commission, according to Lynch, VSC board members could not take sides on the issue.
“That’s my position as a member of our board,” Lynch said.
Mangus stood to speak next. He offered to commission members to display examples of the posters after finally having gathered a few copies. Ideally, poster advocates would like to display them between Memorial Day and Veterans Day activities each year. City Commissioners were concerned with regard to poster size and placement on light posts because multiple civic organizations like to make use of the posts for various community functions and events. Mangus said the initiative was predominantly being paid for by the VFW Honor Guard.
Mangus offered a future poster-hanging demonstration with commissioners agreeing to it. Commissioner Roger Brandeberry asked if all the veterans organizations were for the hanging of the posters.
Lynch responded from the crowd saying, “Our board (Gallia Veterans Services Commission) of five guys is not behind this (the poster project). Period.”
“The last thing I want as a (city commission) member for this body would be that group A, B and C want this and group whatever doesn’t want it and now I just hate to see us get involved,” Brandeberry said. “Maybe it’s naive of me to think so, but I would like to see consensus from the veterans as a whole.”
Brandeberry said he would be hesitant to vote in favor of something that a few groups want and others do not.
Keith Jeffers, commander of local Disabled American Veterans group, AMVETs and a representative of the DAV on the VSC, said he had not been approached about the poster project and said it was a VFW initiative. Jeffers said the groups he commanded had not had the opportunity to discuss it.
Brandeberry asked if the groups could pull together to make a decision. Jeffers said he would not make a decision without speaking with his members. Brandeberry then asked Lynch if he felt there was any opportunity for a consensus.
“Our position is that we’ve got the Doughboy,” Lynch said. “We have two memorials in our city park. We’ve got a beautiful city park. We don’t need these other things as far as I’m concerned and the Gallia County Veterans Service Commission is concerned.”
Keith Sheets voiced concern saying he knew individuals who had written checks (that were subsequently spent) to have names placed on the memorials in the park but names never appeared. Lynch said in response that the memorials were maintained by taxpayer money and the first time the VSC is approached by a person, so long as they have proof of honorable discharge from the U.S. military, they can get their name engraved in black granite one time for free. If a name is incorrect, the group tries to correct it.
One member of the crowd voiced that when the Vietnam Wall memorial was built in Washington, D.C., it did not have consensus from many veterans as they disliked the way it looked. However, now it was one of the most visited features of the U.S. capital.
Commissioners asked the veterans groups if they could get together to discuss the poster project. Multiple veterans agreed to meet and communicate thoughts, as well as attempt to come to a decision before the next city commission meeting. In the meantime, commissioners also discussed the possibility of having a poster hanging demonstration.
Dean Wright can be reached at (740) 446-2342, Ext. 2103.