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  • Covid forces cities to cancel Veterans Day ceremonies

    Onalaska FlagJASON CHLAPEK I PCE A pair of volunteers post flags along US Highway 190 in Onalaska to honor Veterans on Veterans Day, which was celebrated on Wednesday throughout the nation.

    By Jason Chlapek

    ONALASKA - A pair of Veterans Day ceremonies were canceled or postponed because of Covid-19.

    The Polk County Garden Club’s annual tribute to Veterans on the Blue Star Memorial Highway marker has been postponed until Memorial Day 2021, and Onalaska’s annual Veterans Day program was canceled. Onalaska Mayor Chip Choate chimed in on his city’s decision to cancel its annual ceremony.

    “We did not have a Veterans Day ceremony this year because of Covid,” Choate said. “Most of the Veterans in this area are senior citizens and they are the most vulnerable to this virus. We wanted to be very cautious and try to avoid any congregation, so we’re going to plan to have it next year. We have plans for Veterans Day 2021.”

    Onalaska still did something to honor Veterans, however. The city placed American flags along both sides of US Highway 190.

    “We put out the American flags three times a year — Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Veterans Day,” Choate said. “We put the flags out a little early this year to let everyone have the opportunity to see the patriotism in our community.”

    Choate hopes the virus will run its course and not be a threat by Veterans Day next year. He also reminisced about previous Veterans Day ceremonies.

    “In the past, we invited Veterans throughout the community, played patriotic music and had speakers such as State Rep. James White, Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy and Commissioner Rodney Vincent,” Choate said. “We also displayed flags and played the songs of each of the five branches of the service. We also do a muster. This is where we call out the names of Veterans from our area who passed away in the past year. When we call their names, we invite relatives or friends to call out, ‘Here,’ when their Veteran’s name is called.”

    At the Blue Star Marker, Livingston VFW Post 8568 teamed up with Livingston High School Junior ROTC cadets to present the flags. The Onalaska High School JROTC did something similar at the Onalaska Veterans Day ceremony.

     

  • Interviews with WWII veterans

    coogler3FILE PHOTO | COURTESY OF POLK COUNTY MEMORIAL MUSEUM J.D. Coogler

    By Brian Besch

    LIVINGSTON - One of the treasures of the Polk County Memorial Museum are recordings that some of the staff have begun compiling. With Veteran’s Day so near and many of the usual events canceled from Covid-19, some of the museum’s more timely are interviews with World War II veterans.

    In conversations with Polk County Historical Commission co-chair Joyce Johnston and others, a few of the Polk County heroes speak of their role in one of the world’s most well-known events.

    Jimmy Parker was on one of the 16 planes from the Doolittle Raid, the American air strike that was retaliation for the attack on Pearl Harbor.

    “General (James) Doolittle came in and said, ‘We’re going on a mission. We’re going to bomb one of our enemies in war and deliver these aircrafts to one of our allies.’” Parker says in the interview.

    “We were supposed to go in the afternoon. Doolittle was going to light up the city and we were going to go in and bomb where the lights were.”

    J.D. Coogler spoke of his service overseas in Italy as an engineer and top turret gunner.

    Coogler spent around nine or 10 months flying missions in Italy, where once he landed, said he knew he “was in the combat area then.”

    The veteran also told of facilities and supplies at the camp, friends in his camp who were shot down in action, as well as some of his missions.

    Some of his stories included having to help land a plane after an engine going out and dropping bombs over Czechoslovakia.

    Avery Merdolf Walker told of his time graduating Livingston High School in 1941, going on to letter in football, basketball and track at Sam Houston State. He would also play a year for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    Walker was drafted after Pearl Harbor was attacked and he was placed in the Army combat engineers.

    “We mostly did work; we didn’t do much fighting,” Walker said in the recording. “We did all kinds of road work and construction work, and on the island of Guam, we built a big runway that the B-29s took off from that dropped the atomic bombs that ended the war.”

    These interviews and many others can be found on the museum’s website at http://www.polkcountymemorialmuseum.com/oral-history/ 

     

  • Triple D hosts Warrior Bonfire event

    Warriors 020911PHOTO COURTESY OF JUDY LEWIS Participants and volunteers of the Warrior Bonfire hog hunt event.

    By Leann Monk

    WARREN –  With so much of what’s happening in the world today being negative, it’s nice to see something good happening right here in our own backyard. Tyler County and its people have long been known for their hospitality and big hearts. No matter what the need, Tyler County folks always rise to the occasion.

    For the fourth year, Cody and Judy Lewis, owners and operators of Triple D Ranch and Event Venue in Warren, hosted the annual hog hunt for the Warrior Bonfire Program. With the help of countless community members, volunteers and donors, this weekend was one for the record books.

    According to hunting guide and Warren Hunting Lease president, Cody Stewart there was a record 14 hogs harvested during this year’s hunt. Stewart stated how proud he was of the efforts of the 45 to 50 volunteers that helped out on the hunt, “without these guys helping and volunteering out here, this hunt would not be possible. It’s hard work.”

    Assistant Guide, Colter Stewart, 11-year-old son of Cody, rode with his dad throughout the two-day hunt ready to do whatever the senior Stewart needed.

    Colter was tasked with “remembering the spot” when his dad pointed out a good area for the men to hunt; and according to Cody, he did his job well. While Colter was assisting his dad in the lease, his brother Briar, 14, was busy back at the camp skinning the hogs. To the Stewarts, this is a family event, and they could not be prouder to be a part.

    The saying is “it takes a village” – and that is certainly the case for this event. It would appear that all of Warren seemed to participate in some way.

    The Warren Little Dribblers provided desserts while others donated money, corn, gas, food, coolers and time. The 10 Warriors left Triple D knowing that the people of Warren, and the surrounding areas, support them and the sacrifice they made for their country.

    One Warrior who participated in the hunt was Doug Shreve, from Hockley, Texas. He is an Army veteran after 20 years of service.

    “This hunt means that I get to come together with other vets and not worry about what’s going on in the world. The hunt, well that’s a plus,” Shreve said.

    Shreve joined the Warrior Bonfire program in 2018. During this hunt, Shreve harvested two hogs.

    Also at the hunt was Graham Golden, from Hot Springs, AR. Golden served as a sniper in the Marines and was shot and injured during his third deployment to Iraq. Golden has been a part of the Bonfire Project for five years and although he lives in Arkansas, hosts an event on Lake Sam Rayburn once a year. “This program means so…” Graham said, stopping mid-sentence. “The bonfire program means camaraderie. It means that I get to be around people who understand me and that I can let my guard down a little bit. You see when I’m at home, I don’t do people. I don’t do public. But when I’m here… I get to let go,” Graham said.

    The mission of the Warrior Bonfire Program is to “provide opportunities that improve the lives of enemy combat-wounded veterans—Purple Heart recipients—on their lifelong journey of recovery and healing. They create activity-based, small group retreats that foster healing, build support communities, and transform lives.”

    “I just can’t thank the Warriors enough for coming back, for trusting us to take care of them.”

    Judy Lewis commented when asked about her thoughts on the men she hosted. She went on to say, “I’m also thankful that Justin Lewis and Ryan “the Dolphin” Gooseman, the liaisons between the Bonfire Program and us, keeps thinking of us and our community. They could take these guys anywhere but say Tyler County is the only place with this kind of hospitality.”

  • Woodville recognizes Blind Veterans Day

    NEWS Woodville City Hall 03 10 21USED COURTESY OF CREATIVE COMMONS The Woodville City Hall

    By Chris Edwards

    WOODVILLE – At its regular monthly meeting on Monday evening, the Woodville City Council began with a proclamation to honor blind military veterans in Woodville.

    Mayor Paula Jones read the proclamation aloud

    The date of March 28 is recognized nationwide as Blinded Veterans Day, recognition that is now in its 76th year, enacted by the 111th Congress to aid in rehabilitative efforts for our nation’s blinded veterans.

    Such efforts as improving the VA’s vision rehabilitation services, benefits, research and caregiver support for blinded veterans.

    Cleanup scheduled

    Under the “Items of Community Interest” standing agenda item, City Administrator Mandy Risinger apprised the council on a variety of ongoing projects and events within the city limits.

    One such topic is the city’s annual cleanup effort, which begun on Monday and will last through Friday, March 19.

    The city will accept heavy waste at its warehouse, located at 200 Wingate Street. Residents can take advantage of this opportunity for disposal of heavy, solid waste items during this time period from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

    There will also be “Be Green – Stay Clean” events on Saturday and on March 20, and Risinger encouraged individuals, as well as organizations to take part in the effort.

    On a related topic during her report of community-related items, Risinger said the city will begin sending out letters to property owners of problematic and/or nuisance properties soon to compel them to clean-up said properties. There will also be hearings scheduled over these matters, also with substandard buildings. These issues have been put on hold due to COVID, she said.

    Risinger also spoke about the coming Dogwood Festival events, all of which are scheduled to take place as they traditionally do, with Festival of the Arts at Heritage Village; Western Weekend and Queen’s Weekend, scheduled for the third and fourth weekends in March and first weekend in April, respectively.

    She referred to the language of Gov. Greg Abbott’s most recent executive order, which ended the mask mandate and reopened occupancy for businesses to 100%, statewide. She said the order does not address public gatherings, and the previous order addressing them allows for localized approval for events of more than 10 people. The festival’s governing board has already approached the city for approval, which was granted, Risinger said.

    The city is not planning to issue any vendor permits until May 1, however, which will be after the festival has taken place. “By that time, vaccinations should be readily available, and the summer months will be on,” Risinger said, which are both factors that will further mitigate the spread of the virus, which is in decline locally and nationwide.

    Other Business

    • The city approved its fiscal year 2019-20 audit, which was conducted by Alexander, Lankford & Heirs. Richard Rudel reported on the audit results to the councilmembers and Jones and said there were no difficulties encountered in conducting the audit.

    • Citizens State Bank of Woodville was awarded as the city’s depository bank.

    • Risinger reported that the city looked at applying for the $350K CDBG grant cycle, with a match that is to be calculated based on variables such as population. “We are primarily looking at street improvement projects (if funded),” she said. A hearing was held to look at potential projects.

    • The city approved the procurement for administration services for CDBG program grant funding to David Waxman and Associates. Risinger said the firm has helped the city obtain millions and millions of dollars throughout the years.