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SPOTLIGHT
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Lest we forget

Published on -9/9/2012, 10:52 AM

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There are a handful of permanent memorials in Hays serving as reminders of those who died in the service of their country.

The local units of the VFW and American Legion have done a great job honoring Ellis County's military members killed in action with tasteful displays at their posts and on the lawn of the county courthouse. Fort Hays State University not only has markers west of Sheridan Hall and north of the Memorial Union, it has the union building itself "dedicated to the unfulfilled dreams of our young men who gave their lives in the defense of freedom."

A proposal currently in front of the Hays City Commission would be a unique addition to the existing markers -- and most certainly deserves the support of commissioners.

The Vietnam Veterans of America, Hays Chapter 939, is seeking space at the Hays Regional Airport to locate up to three Huey helicopters. VVA chapter president John Pyle wants people to see various types of helicopters that were used during the war and give them a feel for what the troops heard on a regular basis. Pyle hopes to have motion sensors trigger a soundtrack loaded with the distinctive sound of a Huey.

"It will be very meaningful for veterans," Pyle said.

Designed as a memorial to the men and women who served during the Vietnam War, the static display will be dedicated to the late Richard Coffelt of Hays. Coffelt, an attorney and Korean War veteran, is responsible for creating the most authoritative database of U.S. forces killed in Vietnam. What began as a research project at the Hays Public Library and FHSU's Forsyth Library ultimately was named after him and deeded to the U.S. National Archives.

Coffelt didn't receive "any reward other than the personal satisfaction to help out Vietnam veterans," Pyle said when Coffelt died earlier this year. "We lost a great friend and a great advocate for us."

This will be the first "big" project the VVA chapter has taken on. The group of 72 members usually spends its time raising money for college scholarships and for the Kansas Soldiers Home in Dodge City.

Chapter members would be responsible for the initial construction and future heavy maintenance such as painting and repairs to the memorial. What they've asked the city for is regular mowing, which municipal workers already do at the airport, and maintaining the lighted flag pole, which the Fire Department handles throughout the city.

The Huey project already has the approval of the Airport Advisory Board and a positive recommendation from city staff. City commissioners appeared receptive to the idea as well during their work session last week.

We would encourage the entire commission to support this effort by the VVA chapter at its upcoming meeting. Recognizing the contributions of Vietnam veterans as well as Richard Coffelt is the correct action to take.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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