Group plans trip to WWII Memorial

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 10, 2003

JACKSON – World War II Veterans have long awaited a memorial to honor fellow comrades who fought to protect freedom, since survivors were fortunate enough to return to their beloved county of the United States.

When Northampton County Director of Veterans Affairs Chuck Youse heard about the memorial, wheels began to turn in his mind to make a way for the aging vets to attend the historical event.

&uot;I had the idea about a year ago and realized that the biggest challenge in planning it was going to be making sure the vets, many of whom are in their seventies and eighties, had appropriate seating,&uot; said Youse, who himself is a retiree of the Army.

&uot;My concern was that it was going to be a very popular event with hundreds of thousands of people in attendance and I wanted to be sure that if we were going to provide the transportation to go that reasonable accommodations be made on their behalf to ensure they would be comfortable there.&uot;

The monument, which is still under construction, is scheduled for completion in March of 2004 with a dedication service planned for May 29.

The process of establishing the memorial, headed by Senator Robert Dole, has been in the making for about 10 years and has been made possible through various fund raising efforts over the years.

Youse stated that, approximately a month ago, he contacted Senator Elizabeth Dole to inquire about securing seating for the event.

&uot;When I called, I was expecting her to get back with me in a month or so, but 30 minutes later, she was on the phone delighted to inform me that the National Battlefield Commission had granted us seating for all who would be in attendance. It was amazing.&uot;

The Veterans Department has arranged for all vets attending the event to be completely provided for from transportation and hotel accommodations to a complete spectrum of meals at a cost of no more than $10. &uot;This event has been the result of incredible community support and cooperation,&uot; said Youse.

&uot;When I had the vision to do this and presented it to those around me, it was only a matter of time before they grabbed hold of it and ran. Since that time, we have received $2,100 in donations from doctors, individuals, churches and civic organizations and have raised $1,300 from a bake sale hosted by 50 women who contributed their time in making cakes to raise money for the event and that’s the kind of thing you just don’t see much anymore. If there’s one thing I have learned, being in this area, it is that when there is a need, the people of this community bind together to make it a reality. You can get a really jaded view about the county, but after working with the people in the local government, I have seen first hand the dedication to the people. I admire them because I continually witness how they do so much with so little. I am very proud of what they do here in Northampton. It’s a wonderful county to live in.&uot;

The event is scheduled to begin 2 p.m. Friday, May 28, with all branches of the service giving tribute to the vets. Youse stated that vets would enjoy dinner that evening before finding rest in one of the 29 suites booked in Alexandria and Arlington. &uot;This is going to be a really memorable event for everyone,&uot; said Youse.

&uot;President Bush is going to be there, during the dedication on Saturday, to accept the memorial on behalf of all those honored for their service in WWII. I imagine that there will likely be others accompanying him like his cabinet members, Secretary of State and other key figures so it will be a really special time.&uot;

Ironically, Northampton County is the only county with an organized trip to the event and the only one in the entire state of North Carolina. &uot;That kind of gives me a mixture of emotions,&uot; said Youse. &uot;On one hand, I am proud that Northampton County is leading the way in sponsoring this trip, but on the other hand, it is disappointing that more groups have not been organized. It’s an honor though. My office has received two phone calls from state congressmen inquiring about whether there were still seats available on our bus. I wish others would make an effort to organize a trip to this event. I made a plea before the other veterans groups but so far, I have not heard anything. There are six people already on our waiting list.&uot;

Youse stated that if money were raised to fund another group of vets, he would be more than happy to take on the added responsibility and effort in coordinating it but stated that, &uot;even if the money were raised, the challenge would be finding enough vets to attend. There are approximately 1,000 WWII Vets dying each day,&uot; said Youse. &uot;It’s sad, but that’s the truth.&uot;

If you would like to contribute to the WWII trip fund, the Northampton County Sheriff’s Department will be holding a raffle for a 25′ color TV, microwave and DVD/VCR for $1 per chance. Contact them for details.