Views of the Raleigh County Veterans Memorial

These photos of the Raleigh County Veterans Memorial in Coal City, West Virginia, were taken by Sam Amato in 2005.

Left: The monument in Coal City, W. Va. Right: the dedication plaque - larger view.

Left: the Korean wall.  Right: Front view of the memorial, showing the World War II wall.

Left: the dedication is on the left side, and the Korean wall is on the right side.  Right: The World War II wall is in front and the Vietnam wall is on the right. The old Stoco High School is the building behind the monument..

Left: Grant Helvey, a 1959 graduate of Stoco High School, who proposed the idea of a Raleigh County Veterans Memorial (see the article below).  Right: The World War I placard - detailed view.

Left: World War II placard - larger view. Right: the 265 names of honored dead from World War II with a copy of an actual letter from a commanding office informing a mother in Coal City that her son was killed in action in France. During the period of WWII a family in Raleigh County received word of the death of a family member every five days - larger view.

Left: Korean War placard - larger view. Right: Korean War list of dead - larger view.

Left: Vietnam War placard - larger view. Right: Vietnam War list of dead - larger view.

Left: Stanley Bender received the medal of honor for action at La Ladone, France in August 1944. He lived and worked in Beckley until his retirement - larger view. Right: Sergeant Cornelius H. Charlton, born at East Gulf, received the Congressional Medal of Honor for action in Korea. The U. S. Navy presently operates a ship named the Cornelius Charlton - larger view.

Left: SFC Robert William Hunt, missing in action in Vietnam - larger view - detailed view. Right: the eagle atop the monument - larger view.

How the Monument Was Built

By Grant Helvey

Compiling a record of men and women killed in wars by its nature is an inexact science. Military and selective service’s board records and newspaper’s accounts conflict or have errors and omissions. Thus, compiling an accurate list from these sources is imperfect. This caused Staff Sgt. Dennis Harper Jr. from Amigo to be left off the list of Vietnam war dead in a History Book of Raleigh County. A former Stoco High School classmate of Staff Sgt. Dennis Harper Jr. feared that the soldier’s sacrifice would be forgotten. The classmate, Grant Helvey, a 1959 graduate of Stoco High School, now of Ocean Pines, Maryland wanted to insure that Sgt. Dennis Harper Jr. would be remembered. His original idea was to place a headstone in Raleigh County to make others remember him.

Mr. Helvey presented the idea to the Stoco Communities Reunion Committee who hosts a reunion at the old school building each July. The Stoco Communities Reunion Committee embraced the idea and money was raised through a mass mailing to former Stoco High School students and families and by others in the Raleigh County area as the idea gained momentum. Donations were received from former Stoco High School students and families from Raleigh County and others now living as far away as California, Michigan, Florida and Germany.

As the idea gained in popularity, Helvey began to research additional little known information regarding local veterans and their military service. He found that Robert Hunt of Beckley remains missing in action from the Vietnam war and that the county was the home of two medal of honor’s recipients.

At this juncture, Grant Helvey designed a monument 64 feet square at the base standing 19 feet high. The design memorializes all of the Raleigh County war dead and military veterans. A copper top adds 4 feet to the height and it is adorned with a 3 feet high bronzed American bald eagle.

Helvey authored inscriptions for granite panels inset into the block. The front panel honors all who have served in our nations military services. One panel is dedicated to those who served in the Korean war listing the names of 53 Raleigh County war dead. Another, dedicated to WWII veterans notes that 265 Raleigh County sons and daughters died in that war. A panel dedicated to the Vietnam veterans, lists the names of 44 Raleigh County sons who lost their lives. Included among those names is Staff Sgt. Dennis Harper Jr.

Brightly colored photographs around the monument lists 30 names of WWI dead, pictures and the citations of the recipients of the congressional medal of honor and the local soldier who remains missing in action from the Vietnam war.

When the monument design was presented publicly, citizens of Raleigh County came together in a patriotic spirit rarely witnessed. Credit to just a few of the people who gave willingly to make the Raleigh County Veterans Memorial a reality are as follow:

Mr. Clyde Bell of Coal City, WV donated a building site in front of the old Stoco High School, by saying, "We can never do enough to repay what the veterans have done for us."

Mrs. Beverly Whorner of Pro - Print Graphics in Coal City donated a road sign that read, "Future Home of the Raleigh County Veterans Memorial."

A group of local citizens came out daily to watch the progress and assisted in building the monument. Some of the people in this group who provided assistance and labor to insure timely completion of the project were Fred Booth, Bobbie Adkins, John Aliff, John Thompson, Delano Thompson, John Thomas, Charles Kipps, etc.

Vaneia Snuffer Smith and Patricia Harris collected donations at local businesses.

Gary Houchins, Vice President of Houchins Block and Brick located in Beckley, WV, when asked for a price for the materials said, "Those blocks will not cost you one dime."

Charles Kipps of Kipps and Bell Construction located in Coal City, WV personally excavated the site free of charge.

The Appalachian Power Company voluntarily cleared the site of large trees.

John Canterbury, owner of the Canterbury Masonry Company located in Coal City, WV, when asked for a price to lay the blocks said, "I am a veteran of the Vietnam War and I will do the work free of charge."

David Hill Concrete, Inc. of Mabscott, WV, and Eastern Concrete Co. Of Sprague, WV donated concrete for the footers and viewing deck.

Marine Corp.’s veteran, Glen Smith, Vice Principal of the Academy of Career Technologies, volunteered his students to frame the roof and build steel sign posts.

Allen Smith of Precision Electric Inc. located in Beaver, WV powder coated the sign posts free of charge.

Korean and Vietnam war veteran, Roy Teag, voluntarily covered the roof cap with copper.

Bill Hicks of Hicks Concrete Finishing donated his service saying, "This may be the last work I ever do."

Egnor Monument Works, located in Crab Orchard, WV, owner Larry Hodges inscribed the black granite panels.

A Vietnam veteran and Commander of Shady Springs VFW, Tom Graham, painted and restored a flagpole that had not been used for 16 years.

Kevin Sizemore owner of K & S Plastering voluntarily finished the front of the retaining wall with drivet material.

Mrs. Phyllis Pacilio, a former Stoco High School student from Sarasota, FL donated a sculptured bronze eagle in flight for the peak.

Grant Helvey wrote: Hundreds helped and those who did never expected thanks for their effort, but did so out of patriotism, to thank all veterans and to memorialize those who sacrificed their lives to preserve our freedom. Raleigh County Commissioners John Aliff, John Humphrey and Pat Reed, Assessor Drema Evans, Delegate Ron Thompson, VFW Commanders William Hinton and Retired Major Tom Graham lent valued encouragement and support.

Living as I do in Maryland created limitations on my ability to turn a design into a 19 feet high stone monument. Credit is owed to a number of people but if I had to pick one it would be the Coal City resident Fred Booth who agreed to receive account for and spend every donated dollar wisely. Mr. Booth went far beyond the job that he signed on for by providing on sight supervision and often resolved problems that I could not from my distant home. Mr. Booth and others acquired donated services and materials needed for the project. In the final analysis, the monument was built by the people of Raleigh County.

All honor surrounding the monument belongs solely to those men and women whose names are inscribed upon it. May we and future generations come to the monument, learn their names and teach our children to never forget them for what they did for us and other free people of the world. May we grieve with their broken hearted families. As we honor them by remembering their service and sacrifice, let us be mindful that other men and women are now in harms way and that they continue to serve and sacrifice for all of us every day that we live free. Our freedom is only as certain as is their courage. May we support our troops in their mission and keep them and their loved ones in our prayers.

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