HED:Pontotoc plans week-long Veterans observance

CATEGORY: Pontotoc County

AUTHOR: CASTEN

HED:Pontotoc plans week-long Veterans observance

By Errol Castens

Daily Journal

PONTOTOC Millions of Americans fought in World War II, and then helped rebuild an economy and a society that had been ravaged by the Depression.

Fifty-four years later, they’re dying at a rate of more than 1,500 a day.

And there’s no national memorial to honor them.

But Pontotoc County’s out to change that.

Money for the Memorial

Admittedly, Pontotoc won’t raise all the funds for the 7.4-acre memorial that will be built on one of the last large public spaces on the National Mall in Washington.

The $100 million price tag will be paid mostly by private funds. Nearly $60 million has already been raised, largely through the efforts of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and other patriotic organizations.

“A lot of people didn’t realize that there wasn’t a memorial to World War Two veterans,” said Sammy Sappington, Wal-Mart district manager. “When the president of Wal-Mart Stores U.S. learned that, he made a company priority of helping raise funds for it.

“If every community with a Wal-Mart should raise $16,000,” he added, “we could raise the whole amount.” In most areas, he said, that amounts to less than $1 per person. Toward that goal, the stores nationwide will host displays about the memorial and will serve as collection sites for tax-deductible donations to go toward its construction.

“We’re taking the last year of this century in which World War II was the defining event to honor those who won it,” Sappington said.

A Registry of Remembrances associated with the Memorial will honor not only World War II veterans but those who served on the civilian fronts as well P defense industries, civil defense organizations and the recycling initiatives that made the war effort possible.

Veterans celebration

Pontotoc County will also use its Veterans Week observance to highlight the need for funding to build the memorial, beginning with “an all-out blowout” on Saturday, Nov. 6.

Marching bands from the county’s three high schools will headline a downtown parade, with former servicemen either marching or riding on military vehicles to the square, which will be patterned after an Army field camp, complete with a mess tent serving refreshments.

Jets from Columbus Air Force Base will do a flyover during ceremonies at noon. Political speakers including Lieutenant Governor Ronnie Musgrove will address the crowd, and area school choruses will present medleys of patriotic and World War II-era songs. The entire crowd will recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and then veterans, ex-POWs, Purple Heart recipients and their families will be recognized.

The Mississippi Army National Guard will present “Flags Over Mississippi,” a historical pageant of banners representing all the nations that have claimed Mississippi soil since its discovery by European explorers. Area students will present essays on “What America Means to Me.”

At 2 p.m., Pontotoc County Schools Superintendent Jerry Horton will present diplomas to veterans who left high school to join the military.

“We’ve invited every veteran of any war to participate,” said Bill Wardlaw, executive director of the Pontotoc County Chamber of Commerce.

Several times during the day, visitors will be invited to contribute to the World War II Memorial Fund.

Week-long commemoration

Each day from Monday, Nov. 8, the Pontotoc square will host a noon commemoration, culminating in the ultimate observance on Veterans Day P the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

The Woodmen of the World will set up flags around the courthouse square as a memorial to Pontotoc County’s own war dead from World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam. (Families and others may buy engraved bricks that will serve as permanent, individual memorials to their loved ones.)

In addition to being an occasion to honor those who sacrificed for their country, the Veterans Week observance will be an educational event for those who came afterward.

“It’s important for younger generations to know about this war,” said James Steward, commander of the American Legion, Post 16.

It’s also increasingly urgent.

“In ten or fifteen years from now when you have a Veterans Day event,” said Pontotoc Wal-Mart manager Bryan Timmons, “there won’t be any World War II veterans left.”

FOR YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS:

Contributions to the World War II Memorial Fund may be made at any Pontotoc County area bank or mailed to the Pontotoc County Chamber of Commerce, 81 South Main St., Pontotoc, MS 38863.

Contributions to the Pontotoc Flag Fund P for engraved bricks to commemorate Pontotoc County’s war dead P may be sent to Commander James K. Steward, American Legion Post Commander, 882 Fooshee Bend, Randolph, MS 38864; or Bobby L. Davis, VFW Post Commander, 891 Beckham Road, Pontotoc, MS 38863. Engraved bricks are $35 each.