Story by Tim Sproles
The American Legion Family at Yorktown Post 321 proudly celebrated the opening of the post’s new American Legion Memorial Park with a dedication ceremony Saturday, Oct. 19.
The park is hidden from view along Indiana Highway 32, but once you venture behind the post on the shore of Buck Creek, this 2.8-acre park is hard to miss. Front and center and the park’s entrance, a patriotic display featuring a 25-foot-long metal monument of the Marines at the Battle of Iwo Jima proudly raising our country’s colors.
“It’s a beautiful spot and a perfect place for families to come together, fish or just enjoy this area,” said Post Commander, Mark Logan. “We are extremely proud of what this park has become, but it didn’t always look like this.”
The story of how the American Legion Memorial Park came to be, begins back in September 2018, with an act of kindness from a local businessman.
Sam Pierce of Sam Pierce Chevrolet in Daleville had purchased the property and wanted to do something with it. After reaching out to Post 321 for ideas, the post executive committee presented a plan for a Veterans memorial park. The project would tie in with a citywide effort to establish a public walkway.
Logan said, “I guess he liked what he heard, because everything happened quickly after that.”
Mr. Pierce entered into an agreement with the Post to lease the 2.8 acres of undeveloped land for 10 years at only $1 a year. After that, it was time to get to work.
“Every day we were out there cleaning that park up and it wasn’t the easiest task,” said Cmdr. Logan. “The entire area was overgrown and hadn’t been cleared out for a long time. When we first started, you couldn’t even walk through it. It was a lot of hard work, but when you have the right tools and your Legion Family by your side, you can accomplish a lot.”
Members donated time and equipment to move out debris and flatten out the area and as it was cleared, people started to notice.
“They’ve received a great reaction from the local community,” said 10th District Commander, Ron Patterson. “The command staff here have really worked hard to ensure that Post 321 has a positive impact here in Yorktown. When good things are happening at your post, then more people want to be involved.”
Commander Logan said that how the post acquired the Iwo Jima monument is a perfect example of community support.
He said, “We have a smaller, wooden display of the Iwo Jima Marines directly outside of the post that we had considered replacing. I reached out to Versatile Metal Works in Muncie about fabricating a metal replacement for us, but they wanted to do something a little bigger than that.”
The staff at Versatile donated the 10 feet high, 25-foot-long metal display and Manor Brothers Concrete out of Eaton followed up by installing the concrete stand and supports for the display, all free of charge.
The Department of Indiana Commander, Allen Connelly, who was the guest speaker at the dedication ceremony, said that hosting community-based events and special projects like the American Legion Memorial Park are what the Legion is all about.
He said, “Establishing the connection with the local community and building on these relationships is vital to the success of both our individual posts, and the continued success of this organization. Every American Legion post should strive to be a pillar for the local community, and that’s exactly what the Legion Family here at Post 321 have done.”
State Representative Melanie Wright, who attended the park dedication ceremony, praised the post for leading by example.
She said, “Our Yorktown American Legion is so amazing because they constantly striving to recognize our fine veterans and give back to the community. The Memorial Park is such a beautiful tribute to our veterans, for if it were not for their tireless service, we would not be able to enjoy the freedoms of our great country.”
The American Legion Memorial Park will be open daily from sunrise to sunset and the post will continue to make improvements to the area.
BY KELLY REINKE - FOX 59
DALEVILLE, Ind. - Veterans at American Legion Post 446 are honoring a Daleville boy who passed away last year after he crawled into a hot car.
Ron Patterson, a former Army paratrooper, is a service officer at American Legion Post 446. In September of 2018, Patterson was at the Daleville post for a weekly drawing.
Patterson said a woman frantically came inside the post looking for Stults. Someone found him after he crawled into a hot car at the apartment complex across the street. Patterson said he attempted CPR, but the little boy passed away.
"I told some friends I would rather go back into combat for a month than to deal with the 20 or 30 minutes I dealt with that small child," he said.
Jaxon's father, John Stults, wanted to meet Patterson in person. When they met, the American Legion told John they wanted to create a memorial scholarship fund in Jaxon's honor.
"I was really touched. Something that can carry on Jaxon's name in a positive light," said John.
The scholarship is not just about academics. Applicants are asked to write an essay about patriotism and how volunteering can benefit them later in life. So far, the American Legion has given away two $1,000 scholarships.
"We hope it spurs people to think and do something kind for the community," Patterson said.
If you would like to help, please contact the American Legion post in Daleville.
As for the case, the toddler's mother, Britni Wihebrink, was charged for neglect of a dependent resulting in death. A jury trial is set for January 27.
According to court documents, Wihebrink said she started drinking to help her hangover from the night before, and she did not remember a lot of the events that occurred that day. Police found seven empty Jim Beam 50 mL bottles in the house.
Wihebrink said she laid down to take a nap with her 2-year-old around 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. That was the last time she saw Stults.
Her friend’s 15-year-old son found Jaxon lying on the back floorboard of the car. Her friend picked the child up and brought him inside. Wihebrink called 911, and she told dispatch someone was performing CPR on her son, but he was starting to turn blue.
Medics rushed to the scene, and he was pronounced dead on the way to the hospital.
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JEFFERSONVILLE — Tucked into a corner on the west side of Jeffersonville sits a reflective space now dedicated to honor the veterans who have served this nation.
Veterans Memorial Park, at 301 Mulberry Street in downtown Jeffersonville, was dedicated Wednesday during a ceremony attended by city officials, local veterans and the Jeffersonville Police Department Honor Guard.
In the center is a monument to veterans, surrounded by plaques telling the story of the area.
"This is great — this is long overdue," said Ron Hanger, member of the veterans organization the Forty and Eight club. "It needed to be done and I'm glad they stepped up to do it."
Hanger, who lives in Clarksville, said he passes the area all the time but had no idea what its history was until the ceremony Wednesday.
News and Tribune archives show that around 335 people are buried there — veterans from the Revolutionary War, Civil War, War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War. The space also served as the city cemetery for residents.
Jeffersonville Mayor Mike Moore said it also has an unusual twist, having soldiers from both sides of the Civil War. They were cared for at a hospital that once stood on East Park Place.
"This is a very historic site; it's very unique," Moore said. "You have on these grounds the burial of Confederate and Union soldiers from the Civil War. Those who lost their lives, this is where their final resting place was."
Throughout history, the area has also served as a spot for softball and football games, but Moore said he's glad the memorial is complete — the roughly $500,000 project took about three years and included archaeologist assistance to ensure that burial sites were not disturbed.
"I just thought we need to find a better way to recognize our veterans and those who have sacrificed everything," Moore said. "So we came up with the idea of making a better use of this place that could pay tribute to the men and women who have fought for us."
Moore said he also wanted to have something to mark Jeffersonville's contributions to the military over time, and to keep the knowledge alive for the younger generations.
"I want to make sure the next generations recognize the history of our city and of our country," he said. "Jeffersonville plays a very key role in our past and this was our opportunity to do something about it.
"It's past due — I'm glad we've done it and it's never too late to say thanks."
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BY MELISSA CRASH, FOX 59
HAMILTON COUNTY, Ind. – A Fishers man has a mission to return a Purple Heart back to the family who it belongs to.
Ron Patterson received the plaque from a friend who got it during an estate sale in Noblesville.
“She found out that I was a veteran and was a paratrooper and she said 'hey, I’ve got something that I know you can help me with',” Patterson explained, “She bought this picture frame at an estate sale and it’s a Purple Heart recipient and she said, 'I got his name and everything, but I just don’t know what to do with it' and I said 'I’d love to take charge of that and try to find the family members'.”
Patterson agreed to help find the family of airborne solider, John L. Oliver.
“We’ll make sure this goes back to the right place and it’s well taken care of,” said Patterson.
He posted about the lost Purple Heart on social media and within moments the search expanded. People from all over Central Indiana are now helping Patterson collect important information to help lead him to Oliver’s family.
“It appears perhaps there aren’t any family members left, but we’d hate to assume that,” Patterson added, “My goal here is that we find some family member that would take this plaque and would cherish it and love it.”
Thanks to the help of friends and social media, Patterson says it appears Oliver was born in Brownsburg and was buried in Pittsboro.
Patterson says, the plaque mentions 1919 to 1944, so he made the assumption that was birth and death dates but turns out Oliver died in 1983 according to an obituary Patterson found.
He's also learned Oliver and his wife were train enthusiasts and were featured in the local paper.
“This gentleman came from the greatest generation,” said Patterson, “He came from the World War II-era, he was a paratrooper and I am a paratrooper, and all paratroopers -- we’re brothers.”
For Patterson, returning the Purple Heart has a much deeper meaning. As a paratrooper himself, this is a personal journey.
One that he won’t stop until the plaque is honored and respected in the right way.
“We try and support the family and the fallen who’ve gone before us. I’ll consider it a failure if I don’t find a home where this Purple Heart will be loved and honored at,” said Patterson.
If Patterson is not able to find any family members, he has plans to donate it to an American Legion so it's honored and respected by people in the community.
If you recognize the Purple Heart recipient or want to help Patterson in his efforts, please e-mail Melissa Crash at MCrash@FOX59.com. She will help connect you to who you need to speak with.
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The American Legion
More than 4,660 rising high school seniors who participated in a 2019 American Legion Boys State and Auxiliary Girls State program applied for the Samsung American Legion Scholarship to receive up to $10,000 for higher education. The 98 scholarship recipients were selected by The American Legion's Committee on Youth Education Oct. 14 during the Legion's Fall Meetings in Indianapolis.
The Samsung American Legion Scholarship awarded 10 national scholars with $10,000, 10 runners-up with $5,000, and 78 department finalists each will receive $1,250 for undergraduate study.
The 10 national scholars are: Sadie DeShon and Mason Whitaker of Arizona; Cambri Driskell and Chandler Quaile of Georgia; Ethan Roos of Indiana; Andrew Kirdahy of Massachusetts; Caitlin Murphy of Nebraska; Vada Kirsch of New York; Henry Heiberger of South Dakota; and Nathan Wolf of Wisconsin.
The 10 runners-up are: Brandon Chapko of California; Jacob James of Iowa; Ethan Sage of Idaho; William Bradley of Maine; Emma Hughes of Massachusetts; Samuel Fullbright of Montana; Grant DeBruin of Ohio; Michael Brown of Tennessee; and Maximilian Safranek of Texas.
The recipients earned the award based on several criteria, including participation in American Legion Boys State or Auxiliary Girls State and being a direct descendant of a wartime veteran eligible for American Legion membership. To see membership eligibility following the signing of the LEGION Act into law, click here. There were 156 applicants who earned an extra bonus point for being a member of or related to someone in the American Legion Family.
The Samsung American Legion Scholarship is available for high school juniors who participate in the current session of Boys State or Girls State and are direct descendants (or legally adopted children) of wartime veterans eligible for American Legion membership. The Samsung scholarship supports undergraduate studies (e.g., room and board, tuition and books), and each applicant is selected according to his or her involvement in school and community activities, academic record and financial need.
For more information about the scholarship, visit www.legion.org/scholarships/samsung.
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By: The Associated Press
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — A 94-year-old World War II veteran from Indiana has received France’s highest military honor for his wartime service.
France Consul General Guillaume Lacroix bestowed the Legion of Honor medal Sunday on Jimmie H. Royer. Napoleon Bonaparte established the honor in 1802.
Hundreds of people gathered at an American Legion post in Terre Haute to watch the award ceremony, the Tribune-Star reported.
Lacroix said he was excited to honor "a son of America's greatest generation."
"It is a generation that changed a lot of America for the better," Lacroix said. "But is also a generation that changed everything in Europe. Without the bravery, the dedication, without the courage and the heroism and the sacrifice of Mr. Royer's generation, the French flag would be history."
The Terre Haute man served as a gunner in the 106th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, taking part in campaigns in Rhineland, Germany, and Normandy, northern France, in 1944. He was wounded on Oct. 27, 1944, on the Lorraine front and honorably discharged in August 1945.
For 75 years, Royer said that he has cherished his memories of the French people and their gratitude after liberation.
"When we would go and liberate a town, the people would have a joy in their eyes and a happiness," he said. "They were so happy. When I went over there I wondered, 'What am I doing here?' I found out, but I remember the laughter and them passing the bottle around."
Along with the Legion of Honor, Terre Haute Mayor Duke Bennett declared Sunday as "Jimmie H. Royer Day," in the city.
Royer said the honor still feels unbelievable.
“It blows my mind,” Royer said. “I never in my wildest dreams thought this would be happening to me. It’s the greatest honor that could ever be bestowed on me.”
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