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Town breaks ground on veterans memorial

Alex Bridges/Daily Don Ratcliff, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in the Vietnam War, speaks Friday during the groundbreaking for a veterans memorial at the old Stephens City School. (Buy photo)

Greg Trenary of Strasburg holds out a hat emblazoned with the 19th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop of the Virginia National Guard at a groundbreaking Friday for Stephens City's memorial to U.S. veterans. Trenary's father, the late Wilfred Trenary, served with guard group in the D-Day invasion of Normandy in World War II. Alex Bridges/Daily (Buy photo)

By Alex Bridges

STEPHENS CITY -- The late Wilfred Trenary survived the D-Day invasion of Normandy 70 years ago before settling down in Stephens City.

Now Trenary's family can honor his service in Stephens City's first memorial to U.S. military veterans set to open later this year. Trenary served with the 29th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop of the Virginia National Guard out of Berryville, his son Greg Trenary said Friday. Wilfred Trenary landed at Omaha Beach with thousands of other troops

"Every D-Day I call dad 'cause I know it was a big day for him and it means a lot to me," Greg Trenary said.

Trenary's survivors, including his widow, Anna Trenary, attended a groundbreaking held at the old Stephens City School for the planned veterans memorial. Organizers chose to hold the ceremony on the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion.

"I think it's wonderful," Anna Trenary said. "It's a good turnout and I think it's a wonderful thing to do.

Town officials are hoping to complete the memorial in time for a Veteran's Day dedication this year. The memorial will stand to honor military veterans from all branches of service, past, present and future, said Councilman Ronald Bowers, one of several people on the committee that spearheaded the effort.

A crowd of veterans and other interested residents gathered for the groundbreaking.

After the groundbreaking, veterans such as Bill Grim lauded the town's efforts to build the memorial. Grim who served in the Virginia National Guard for more than nine years in the 1950s and 60s.

"I think it's wonderful, probably overdue," Grim said.

Mayor Joy Shull-Gellner told the audience that D-Day has a special significance to her because her father served in the U.S. military, not only during World War I but also World War II. She voiced concern for the amount of history students learn in school today.

"So I think it's very important for any opportunity that we have to reinforce the importance of our history and particularly the sacrifices our men and women in uniform have given over the years," Shull-Gellner said.

Guest speaker Don Ratcliff, a Tazewell County native and U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in the Vietnam War, began with some statistics about the service, particularly during World War II. But Ratcliff also spoke about the present importance of the military and its veterans. Ratcliff said while the number of people in the service is considerably fewer than during World War II many in the audience likely know someone currently in the service.

"Many people don't know the worry, the concern, the tears when one of their close family members leaves them," Ratcliff said. "The thing that really hurts is that those people -- our elected officials in Washington and their henchmen, their appointees and so forth -- there are very, very few of them who have a relative in the military service.

"So the decisions they make that affect our sons and daughters and grandsons and granddaughters in service -- they have no idea what it feels like," Ratcliff went on to say. "They have not seen mothers cry. That's just not something they understand. So to those of you sitting here, you give a damn. That's why you're here."

Designs call for the memorial to feature flags and a wall with the names of veterans that visitors can approach from two brick walkways. Town Manager Mike Kehoe said efforts to raise the needed $25,000 have reached close to the halfway mark due to a large donation from a local family.

The town is selling commemorative bricks that will be placed in the walkways. Each brick costs $50. The town also is selling prints by artist Mort Kunstler for $5 a piece or three for $10. Proceeds from the sales go to help cover the cost of the memorial. Anyone interested in buying a brick or a print or making other donations can contact the town at 869-3807.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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