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In Memory

Delegates working to honor local heroes

Our local community has been the home to many heroes who fought and died in wars on foreign soil. It would be a true tragedy if the sacrifices they made were forgotten. Randolph County’s two legislative delegates are working hard to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Within the past month, three military heroes from Randolph County have been honored by having bridges or roads renamed in their honor.

On June 29, the Spillway Bridge on the Georgetown Road was dedicated as the U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Thomas Gavin Hess Memorial Bridge. Hess, an Elkins native, was killed May 3, 1970, in the Quang Nam Providence of the Republic of Vietnam.

Master of Ceremonies Roger Ware, the commandant of the Marine Corps League, praised Del. Bill Hartman, D-Randolph, 43rd District, who brought the bridge renaming to a vote in the state Legislature, where it was approved.

“I am grateful to West Virginia House of Delegates member William Hartman who recognized the need to honor this brave soldier from Vietnam. Delegate Hartman cosponsored House Concurrent Resolution No. 37, which gained the approval of the West Virginia Legislature, to dedicate the Spillway Bridge as the U.S. Army SSGT Thomas Gavin Hess Memorial Bridge,” he said.

“Delegate Hartman wanted to not only memorialize SSGT Hess’ service in this small way, but also to have it be a memorial for our society in general about the sacrifice that this individual, and other servicemen and servicewomen, have given to protect our independence as a country.”

Also during the ceremony, Peter Agriostathes, Hess’ best friend in the military who traveled from Nevada to Elkins to take part in the event, said, “I want to thank Bill Hartman for becoming one of my new heroes for working so hard on this for approximately a year to get this bridge dedicated, bring it to a vote, get the vote done so this bridge could be named for Tommy, so people can forever drive by this bridge and see his name up there.”

Before that, on June 2, a section of Route 250 that runs from the intersection of Route 219 at Huttonsville south to the Pocahontas County line was named in honor of World War II hero Boggs Collins.

“Boggs did so many things when he was in the service,” Hartman said at the dedication ceremony, as he prepared to read the resolution naming the section of road. “You’ll probably never see a resolution that’s longer than this.”

Collins, a Huttonsville native, served in the United States Army during WWII, from 1942 until 1945, as part of the 1st platoon of “C” Company of the 509th Parachute Infantry Battalion. He achieved a number of accolades, including the Distinguished Service Cross, the Purple Heart Medal with two oak leaf clusters, the Parachutist Badge with two combat jump stars, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Good Conduct Medal, the EAME Campaign Medal with arrowhead and four campaign stars, the WWII Victory Medal, the Distinguished (Presidential) Unit Citation with two oak leaf clusters, and five overseas service bars.

On July 4, a bridge in Glenmore was dedicated to the memory of Homer Jacob Day, a fallen World War II hero, on the 75th anniversary of his death.

Speaking during the ceremony, Day’s niece, Vera Lewis, thanked Hartman’s fellow Randolph representative, Del. Cody Thompson, D-Randolph, 43rd District,

“In his honor and with the help of Del. Cody Thompson and the Legislature of West Virginia, the Glenmore Bridge has been renamed to the U.S. Army PFCD Homer Jacob Day Memorial Bridge,” Lewis said.

Thompson read aloud the Legislative resolution dedicating the bridge in the memory of Day.

“It was my great pleasure to help get this resolution passed, one small step for a brave soldier who gave the ultimate sacrifice,” Thompson said.

The drive to honor local heroes is not yet finished.

“We lost 17 soldiers from Randolph County in Vietnam,” Ware said recently. “Our goal is to have a road or bridge named for every one of them. We’ve got about six or seven left.”

At 11 a.m. on Saturday, July 27, a bridge in Adolph will be renamed for Michael Shannon, a local native who was killed in Vietnam.