Gary Pratt envisions the Mid-Columbia Veterans Memorial Committee’s new website as the “hub” of happenings in the region for those who have served.
“We have a calendar on the site that will allow all of the activities and meetings going on that involve veterans to be posted in one place,” he said. “We want this to be the community’s resource for veterans.”
Pratt is the president of the nonprofit organization and webmaster of www.midcolumbiaveterans.com. He is in the process of compiling a list of resources that veterans can access on the site to get whatever help they need. This information will also be posted on the group’s new Facebook page.
“We may not be able to directly intervene and help them but we can send them in the right direction,” he said. “Getting the word out in a digital format is just the logical way to go because it is convenient and easily accessible.”
Articles about veterans’ issues will also be featured on the site and blogging is encouraged to start a community discussion about service-related problems and challenges.
“We want to get input from veterans and military families about what they would like to see us post and issues they are facing,” Pratt said.
However, he said no comments will be aired until they are reviewed by him or other administrators. Members of the committee want to ensure that anti-military rhetoric is not displayed on a site that seeks to honor past and present members of the armed forces.
“This is not an appropriate place to debate whether or not we should have gone to war or other issues tied to foreign policy,” said Pratt. “It is a place to pay tribute to veterans and to memorialize the sacrifices they have made for national defense.”
Toward that end, the committee is developing a questionnaire that will be posted online for area veterans to fill out.
A new biography and photo of the featured individual will be posted each month so people in the area can learn about the military personnel who have settled among them.
“We should be ready to start that program within the next month, so it is something that people can watch for,” said Pratt.
Residents throughout the region and beyond can view real-time footage of what is happening around the Veterans’ Memorial at Sorosis Park in The Dalles, thanks to installation of a surveillance camera. A second camera delivers a panoramic view of the town and the Columbia River. “One of the cameras is to prevent acts of vandalism, or hold people responsible for crimes they commit. The other is to allow the public to see what the weather is like in the area and give them a glimpse of what is going on at that moment,” Pratt said.
The nonprofit organization is interested in eventually selling ad space on the home page to raise funds for ongoing programs to serve veterans. The committee’s mission is to educate the public about the sacrifices made by military personnel forces and to advocate for services to help them overcome the aftermath of war.
The MCVMC was founded in 1999 to build a memorial in observance of Lauren Kaufman, a Korean War veteran who was awarded posthumously with the Congressional Medal of Honor for “acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty.”
Kaufman, an Army sergeant, was 27 when he gave his life in service to his country. A native of The Dalles, he was killed in action Feb. 10, 1951, after distinguishing himself in combat Sept. 4 and 5, 1950, near Yongan, Korea.
Members of MCVMC raised almost $300,000 to build Kaufman’s memorial next to a monument for Vietnam veterans that had been erected in the 1990s.
The memorial also recognizes the services of Desert Storm and veterans from World War I and II. During the final planning stages, the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the East Coast occurred. An eagle was added to the structure to pay respects to warriors that would serve, be injured and fall in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn.
The memorial as it stands today was dedicated in 2002 and Pratt said plans are underway to somehow honor two other Medal of Honor recipients from the gorge: Army Sgt. Marcus Robertson, an infantryman, and Harry Fadden, a sailor who served as a coxswain onboard the U.S.S. Adams.
Robertson received the nation’s highest military decoration on April 28, 1906, for his actions in the Philippine-American war. As a private, he helped rout out a large enemy force near San Isidro despite his unit being greatly outnumbered by enemy fighters.
He died at age 78 and was buried in Pine Grove Cemetery, several miles south of Hood River.
Faddan was recognized for risking his life on June 30, 1903, to save a fellow sailor who had hit his head on a rail and fallen overboard in shark-infested waters off the coast of California. He died at the age of 73 in King County Wash.
Pratt said the MCVMC has developed a new logo that is representative of its services to Hood River, Wasco, Klickitat, Skamania and Sherman counties. That image has been emblazoned on T-shirts and hats that are being sold by the group to raise money for outreach programs.
The late Al Morrison, a Vietnam veteran who recently died following a diagnosis of terminal cancer related to Agent Orange exposure, worked with Sign Age in The Dalles on the design of the new logo.
Pratt said it is a fitting tribute to Morrison, an employment specialist who worked with veterans and advocated for more federal resources to fund their services, to have the logo worn by many of his friends and supporters.
“Al was all about doing anything to help veterans and the purpose of this logo is to raise public awareness about their needs,” he said.