Middle East veterans to get place of honor in Kent County

Ken Bodine, Joan and Joe Startt Jr., of VVA Chapter 850; John Hampton, chair of Middle East Conflicts committee; Miriam and Bill Mullen, parents of Sean Mullen killed in June 2013 in Afghanistan; Oscar Gonzales, medically retired United States Army Ranger, pose at the site reserved for the Middle East Conflicts Memorial. (Submitted photo by Dave Skocik)

Ken Bodine, Joan and Joe Startt Jr., of VVA Chapter 850; John Hampton, chair of Middle East Conflicts committee; Miriam and Bill Mullen, parents of Sean Mullen killed in June 2013 in Afghanistan; Oscar Gonzales, medically retired United States Army Ranger, pose at the site reserved for the Middle East Conflicts Memorial. (Submitted photo by Dave Skocik)

DOVER — Etched on the Vietnam War memorial stone at the center of the Kent County Memorial Park is the phrase “Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another.”

In that spirit, Vietnam Veterans of America Kent County Chapter 850 members have been thinking about the generation of military members who have been serving in the Middle East.

“We just don’t want others to forget,” said Joe Startt, president of Chapter 850.

Mr. Startt was among a small group at the park Friday morning discussing the plans.

From the Editor logo copy copyMr. Startt and his wife, Joan, are longtime friends of Bill and Miriam Mullen, whose son Sean was killed in Afghanistan in 2013.

On Monday, the Mullens placed a wreath in the circle during the Memorial Day ceremony for the first time.

“Standing there looking at Bill and Miriam, I thought that could have been my son,” said Mr. Startt. “We need a memorial here and we’re going to do everything in our power to get it here.

“We’re going to stick to it until we get it done.”

The Mullens placed the red, white and blue wreath in the circle next to two memorial bricks that honor their son.

It is the same spot where the Middle East Conflicts Memorial will go.

“It’s a beautiful park,” said Mrs. Mullen. “It’s really amazing.”

The Vietnam memorial, dedicated in 2009, is the centerpiece of the park. A brick walkway circles it.

Its backdrop, installed a year ago, is the Huey helicopter.

Also in the park are Gold Star Mothers and Korean War memorials.

Dave Skocik, a public affairs champion for the Vietnam veterans, said the Middle East veterans will be raising the funds.

The Middle East marker will honor those who served in that part of the globe during the Iranian Revolution in 1979 through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It covers service in Yemen, Saudi Arabia. Syria and Egypt, too.

“That’s why it’s important that we call it the Middle East Conflicts so people don’t think it’s just Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said. “If you said Gulf War Memorial, that’s not going to cover it.”

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John Hampton, an at-large member of the Delaware Commission of Veterans Affairs, is heading the effort and hopes it can be dedicated by Veterans Day on Nov. 11.

A Dover resident since 1995, Mr. Hampton has been on the commission since 2013. Originally from Baltimore, he served in a number of roles from

Bill and Miriam Mullen, of Dover, parents of U.S. Army Warrant Officer Sean W. Mullen who was killed in Afghanistan in 2013, place a wreath at the site of the future Middle East Conflict Memorial at the Kent County Memorial Park. (Delaware State News photo by Dave Chambers)

Bill and Miriam Mullen, of Dover, parents of U.S. Army Warrant Officer Sean W. Mullen who was killed in Afghanistan in 2013, place a wreath at the site of the future Middle East Conflict Memorial at the Kent County Memorial Park. (Delaware State News photo by Dave Chambers)

para-rescue to weapons courier to convoy commander during Desert Storm/Shield and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

He described the Middle East memorial’s sandstone base and two black tablets, possibly featuring a map and a jet, Humvee, submarine and other iconic images of the actions in the area.

It might also include an etching of a Battlefield Cross — helmet, rifle and boots.

The words are currently in draft form.

A quote at the bottom: “When it matters most, we answer the call. All gave some, some gave all.”

A prayer reads, “We pray for the covering and protection of those still in the fight, that all those uniformed service members who answered the call fulfill their duties and return home safely, for peace for all of the families of the fallen and most importantly we acknowledge their memory. Amen.”

Helping with the design is 2001 Army Ranger Oscar Gonzalez, a veterans advocate who has been leading an effort to create a traumatic brain injury hospital for veterans in Delaware.

Mr. Gonzalez was an Airborne Ranger serving with the Second Ranger Battalion out of Fort Lewis in Washington.

“This is special to me because I lost a lot of friends,” said Mr. Gonzalez, “and my brother David is over there now on his sixth tour.”

A major fundraiser for the memorial — which may cost up to $15,000 — will be engraved bricks.

Two bricks honor U.S. Army Warrant Officer Sean Mullen at the Kent County Memorial Park.

Two bricks honor U.S. Army Warrant Officer Sean Mullen at the Kent County Memorial Park.

“We’ll fill this space pretty easily,” said Mr. Hampton, pointing to the area in the circle near the proposed area of placement.

Mr. Hampton, who served in the U.S. Air Force from 1990 to 2011, said the next step is approval of the design by a committee of the Vietnam veterans of Chapter 850.

From there, Chapter 850 representatives will take it to the Kent County Levy Court for approval, as required in an agreement with the county for use of the park land next to the Kent County Administration Building on South Little Creek Road.

“We want to accelerate the project,” said Mr. Skocik, “so we can start selling bricks. It’ll be beautiful and it’ll be in that circle of honor.

“We anticipate this will be the last memorial in this circle,” Mr. Skocik said.

Added Mrs. Startt, “And, I hope that will be it. I just don’t want any more wars. Period.”

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Brick orders are available at www.DelawareVVA.com, or through forms in a dispenser at the memorial site, or by calling John Hampton at (302) 241-3189.

Contributions toward the Middle East Conflicts Memorial, can be made to Chapter 850, Vietnam Veterans of America, P.O. Box 1718, Dover DE 19904 with Middle East Memorial in the memo section of the check.

 

Reach editor Andrew West at awest@newszap.com

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