London grapples with how to recognize veterans

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(Posted April 28, 2014)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

How should fallen war heroes be recognized? It’s a question London residents and area elected officials are trying to answer.

Earlier this month, State Rep. Robert Hackett, a London resident, asked London City Council about naming a state route in London after LCpl. Josh McDaniels. A U.S. Marine, McDaniels died June 12, 2011, while conducting combat operations in Afghanistan. He was a 2008 graduate of London High School.

In October 2011, council designated the bridge on Amherst Boulevard, near where McDaniels grew up, as the “Lance Corporal Josh McDaniels Memorial Bridge.” Also, his name appears on the war memorial at the Madison County courthouse alongside the names of all other county residents who lost their lives in war.

Hackett’s request for a street named for McDaniels would have to meet criteria council set in 2012 for naming city-owned buildings, structures, streets and parks. It would be subject to review by the public service committee and would require approval from council.

Council president Pat Closser said he has received feedback from residents and veterans who oppose the idea of singling out one person for recognition. Among them is former London resident Janie Johnson, whose brother, Tom Johnson, was killed in action on July 4, 1969.

Johnson wrote a letter to council, which Closser read aloud at the April 17 council meeting. In it, Johnson stated, “While I wholeheartedly agree that Josh is a local hero who paid the ultimate price for our freedoms, I am dismayed that many other London (heroes) are not being considered in the same manner.”

She proposed instead that a street be designated “Veterans Memorial Drive” and that flags or banners be hung for each of London’s fallen heroes.

“I would be quite honored to be able to return (to London) and drive on a street that honors my brother as well as many others,” she wrote.

Fundraiser for memorial banners

Closser took Johnson’s suggestions to the Downtown London Association (DLA), a non-profit group to which he belongs that promotes the city’s downtown area.

“We had already been looking at putting (American) flags on High Street. Now, we’re hoping to expand that project to include the banners,” Closser said.

For years, the DLA has hung American flags from light poles on Main, First and Second streets. Last year, they replaced those flags, which were showing wear and tear. The replacements were made possible by donations from John Dixon, council president at the time, and other members of the community.

The DLA has $750 left in its flag fund. Another $1,000 is needed to buy flags and brackets for High Street and banners to recognize London resident who have died in war, Closser said.

Exactly how the banners will be designed is yet to be determined. The DLA needs to secure a list of names of London veterans who died in war, after which they can determine how to display the names on the banners.

Initial ideas, Closser said, are to hang the banners on High Street, alternating them with the new American flags.

“I also will push for High Street to also be known as Veterans Memorial Drive,” he said. Such a designation would need to go through city council’s public service committee, then receive approval from council.

DLA members are approaching area veterans organizations for donations for the flag/banner project. They also welcome donations from the public at large. Checks should be made out to “Downtown London Association” and mailed to P.O. Box 335, London, OH 43140. A note should be included designating the donation for the flag/banner project.

“As soon as we raise the money, we will get the banners up right away,” Closser said.

For more information, contact Pat Closser at Casey’s Carry Out, (740) 852-4835. The Downtown London Association meets at noon on Tuesdays at Phat Daddy’s Pizza, 15 E. First St. On the last Tuesday of the month, the group meets at Rothwell’s Neighborhood Restaurant, 225 Lafayette St.

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