Vets Council adding names to downtown mall

The Blair County War Veterans Council will honor Blair Countians killed in action during the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by adding plaques with their names to the Robert E. Laws Veterans Mall downtown.

The council will unveil the plaques on Memorial Day in a ceremony after the traditional downtown parade, according to Ken Hollen, president of the Central Pennsylvania National Guard Veterans Association, which is a member organization of the council.

The nine new names will be read and a bell rung after each, as part of the ceremony.

The memorial already has names from the Civil War through the first Iraq War.

The new names added are:

n Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert B. Jenkins, Altoona, born Feb. 2, 1969, killed in Al Anbar province, Iraq, May 2, 2004.

n Marine Gunnery Sgt. Ronald E. Baum, Hollidaysburg, born June 22, 1965, killed in Al Anbar province, Iraq, May 3, 2004.

n Army Sgt. Brandon E. Adams, Hollidaysburg, born Dec. 17, 1981, died in Washington, D.C., from injuries received in Al Anbar province, Iraq, Sept. 19, 2004.

n Air Force Maj. Duane W. Dively, Hollidaysburg, born May 1, 1962, killed in crash of U-2 plane in southwest Asia June 22, 2005

n Army National Guard Sgt. Daniel R. Lightner Jr., Hollidaysburg, born Nov. 20, 1976, killed in Ramadi province, Iraq, Oct. 27, 2005

n Army Pvt. Larry L. Parks Jr., Newburg section of Logan Township, born Oct. 30, 1982, killed in Arab Jabour, Iraq, June 18, 2007.

n Army Spc. Michael A. Hook, Altoona, born Aug. 24, 1981, killed in Multaka, Iraq, Aug. 22, 2007

n Army National Guard Spc. Chad E. Edmundson, Williamsburg, born Nov. 9, 1988, killed in Baghdad, Iraq, May 27, 2009;

n Marine Sgt. Matthew N. Ingham, Altoona, born July 6, 1984, killed in Now Zad, Afghanistan, Jan. 11, 2010.

A plaque with the name of Army Spc. Duane Hollen Jr., Bellwood, born Nov. 28, 1966, killed Feb. 25, 1991, in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, during the first Gulf War, will be taken down and added to the plaques bearing the new names.

As a preliminary to these changes at the mall, city workers relocated a historical marker that explains Altoona’s role in the founding of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. For years, it has stood, nearly hidden, between sections of walls supporting the existing memorial plaques.

It is now relocated it to a more prominent location in front of the mall, near 11th Avenue.

Prior to the relocation, the council sent the sign for refurbishing to a shop in Pittsburgh.

While workers installed the sign, local members of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters union were in nearby Heritage Plaza constructing a reviewing platform that the council – and potentially other groups – can use for the Memorial Day and subsequent parades.

The 30-inch high, 16-foot wide and 8-foot deep platform – with ramp – was to be in nine sections, so it can be dismantled and stored easily, according to Wade Baumgartner, a union member.

Former City Councilman Jan Mills organized the effort, and the vets council bought the material for the platform, Hollen said.

The vets council also plans to replace bushes with flowering shrubs at the mall and to replace large stones in front of the walls that hold the plaques with gravel mulch, to eliminate weeds, Hollen said.

In addition to providing manpower to reset the VFW sign, the city recently agreed to insure the sponsors of city parades that traverse state routes for $1 million, to satisfy a PennDOT indemnity requirement.

A one-time policy for that amount of coverage would cost about $400, City Manager Joe Weakland said.

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.