The county donated an acre, the sign was planted in March, landscape architects and artists are being consulted, and all that the board needs now is to reach their goal of raising $350,000 to complete the Westmoreland County Veterans of the War on Terror Monument.
“Our plans are to dedicate the monument on 9-11 of 2021, exactly 20 years after the terror attack that started the war on terror,” said Col. (Ret.) Samuel F. Wagner, a U.S. Army Reserve veteran and president/founder of the nonprofit organization building the monument.
On Sept. 8, Gary Racan of Hempfield Township and his Studio E Band’s Warriors Rock tribute will raise funds for them at a benefit concert at Seton Hill Performing Arts Center in Greensburg.
The event will feature video interviews of veterans of the Cold War, the Persian Gulf War, and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In these concerts, the band plays songs that reminded the featured troops of home.
“One particular veteran, Terry Valore, was a marine in the hotel in Beirut in 1983 and was blown out of his bed onto the street,” said Kim Racan, who organizes the benefits with her husband and also sings with the band. “He gave me footage that was taken of him being interviewed by the doctor with burns over 90% of his body. There are also news stories about him from 1983 that we will show. It’s a miracle that he survived and we will be showing that footage for the first time.”
Wagner, who lives in Hempfield Township, approached the Westmoreland County Commissioners about two years ago with the idea of building the monument.
“The census bureau on their website says that over 20,000 men and women had served post-9/11,” he said.
His wanted to create a monument that represents service, sacrifice, strength, the global nature of the war and the enduring nature of the war.
The county commissioners donated nearly one acre of land near the dog park area of Twin Lakes Park in Hempfield Township. It will include a monument that has not yet been designed and an area known as Patriot Day Plaza with a walkway and a wall with the names and etched photos of fallen heroes from those wars. So far, there are 12 names.
“We want to have their pictures engraved with a laser so that people can see who sacrificed their lives for us,” said Dorey Stabile McCarron of North Huntingdon Township, a veteran of the U.S. Army. She serves as the organization’s vice president and incorporator, and chairs the publicity and public affairs committee.
Community support is growing for the project.
Dom Palmieri of Hempfield Township didn’t hesitate to join the board as secretary.
“Sam was one of my students at Westmoreland County Community College and when he asked me to be on the board, I couldn’t say no to such a beautiful organization,” he said.
Alan Laick of Wexford, who teaches digital media at Westmoreland County Community College (WCCC), came aboard as the web and social media advisor. His company designed the web page and the logo that has an outline of Westmoreland County against a globe surrounded by a star.
Ron Rometo of Penn Township is not on the board, but serves on the committee as an ambassador to promote the monument project.
“My dad was a World War II veteran and I have always had an interest in veterans, so this is a nice opportunity,” he said.
Brandy L. Lockwood, who teaches language arts at Penn-Trafford High School, chairs the education committee that’s preparing the interpretive panels for the monument site.
“We’re getting the right stories to make sure that this is going to be educational,” McCarron said. “We’re also going to get all of the county’s school districts involved with a poster and essay contest, and we are going to make sure that students are being taught about the war on terror. We want to get the whole community involved because many people don’t even know life before the war on terror.”
It was a series of events, Gary Racan noted, that changed history.
“We will never be the same again,” he said. “Sam and Dorey and their team have the same passion that Kim and I do with our concerts. To build a monument reminds people to step back and think, maybe say a prayer, and I’m happy to help out with this in our own small way.”
The website is building a list and biographies of soldiers who lost their lives in the wars. One of them is Sgt. Jason Alan Shaffer, 28, a 1998 graduate of Derry Area High School, who was killed on April 5, 2007, in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The honored fallen will include not only county residents, but also soldiers who lived here at one time or have other connections. One who will be honored at the plaza is from another county but is buried in Westmoreland County.
The concert at the Seton Hill Performing Arts Center will be held at 3 p.m. Sept. 8. Tickets are $25 and $15 for veterans and students. They will be available at the door, or by calling 724-640-9473 or 724-454-3658.
In other upcoming fundraisers, the organization will sponsor a dinner on Nov. 1 at Lakeview Lounge in Hempfield Township. The featured speaker will be Gen. George Casey, the senior general in the U.S. Army from 2007-11. They will also host a super bingo game at the Jeannette American Legion on Nov. 17.
For additional information about the fundraisers or the nonprofit, visit wcvwotm.org or on Facebook. The organization is looking for volunteers to help with the project and they are also seeking donations from individuals, businesses and community groups.