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Veterans give back

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DONATION: A $1,500 donation from American Legion Post 7 on Nov. 4 added to the Purple Heart Gateway Arch’s campaign.
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RENDER: A rendered photo of what the Purple Heart Gateway Arch will look like over the current Purple Heart Corridor, West Park Drive, in Huntington.
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COMMITTEE: Mayor Brooks Fetters holds up a check from a donor at the kickoff event for the Purple Heart Gateway Arch at Huntington’s VFW Hall Post 2689 as several committee members involved in the project share in the announcements.
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UNIFORM: Huntington City Councilman Seth Marshall continues to give back to his community after his service at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina where he worked as a mechanic and instructor on the AV-8B Harrier II.
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JUMP JET: A photo of the AV-8B Harrier II that Marshall served as mechanic then instructor on atMarine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina.
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JUMP JET: A photo of the AV-8B Harrier II that Marshall served as mechanic then instructor on atMarine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina.

by James Ehle

jehle@h-ponline.com

Several Huntington veterans are choosing to continue giving back to their communities through Huntington’s Purple Heart Gateway Arch committee.

City Councilman Seth Marshall, who was stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in North Carolina where he worked as a mechanic on AV-8B Harrier II before becoming a jump jet instructor and being deployed to various locations. He says he’s always wanted to serve his country for as long as he can remember.

“Ever since age three or four, I don’t know why, it just felt like what you should do if you get to enjoy living in the United States and be lucky enough to be a citizen,” said Marshall.

The Purple Heart Corridor Gateway Arch project was first brought to his attention by Mayor Brooks Fetters who invited Marshall to one of the meetings. Marshall says his decision to get involved with the project was a “no brainer”.

Marshall says the gateway shows Huntington is putting it’s best foot forward in making sure that service members are honored in a respectful fashion that shows appreciation for those who were wounded and killed in war. The gateway is privately funded, and Marshall says the community has backed the project significantly.

“That’s one thing I’ve always enjoyed about Huntington, is these are the type of projects that everybody in town can get behind,” Marshall said.

This is not the first project of its kind for Marshall, who has worked alongside organizers of the annual Veterans Day 5K which raises money for war memorials at Memorial Park.

“This is a great place to do projects like this and these are projects that unify the community,” Marshall said.

One woman who is working on being a unifying force within the community is Gloria Holzinger, who Marshall refers to as an “anchor” for the project. He says Holzinger is always at the forefront of the projects and makes sure all of the goals get completed.

Holzinger’s family has a rich military background, and while she herself isn’t a veteran, members of her family on her mother and father’s side, her two children, her husband, and two nephews have served. She takes on these projects as a way to honor their service and the service of others in the community.

“It’s one of those things that’s so dear to my heart,” said Holzinger.

After her son was severely injured during one of his four tours in Iraq, honoring veterans became a very important part of her life. When she worked at American Specialty, an insurance firm in Roanoke, her co-workers participated in Adopt-A-Marine.

“It was just one of those things that it became a family thing and it just never, ever, ever stopped,” Holzinger said. “It was just one of those things where I thought ‘I’m not going to stop.’”

And Holzinger hasn’t stopped since. She approached Mayor Brooks Fetters about the Purple Heart Memorial along with Steve Kimmel. Holzinger was able to get bricks for all of the families of Purple Heart recipients living and passed. She says Fetters helped her get Huntington into the National Registry as a Purple Heart City.

“You have to step up to the plate sometimes with things you want to get involved in, and you just want to see it through,” Holzinger said.

Gloria says she’s talked with countless veterans and famililes of veterans who are glad to see the gateway being constructed in honor of the veterans.

“It doesn’t signify just one, it’s for all of them,” Holzinger said. “It’s just like coming home.”

Holzinger says there has been an outpouring of support for the project and she hopes to see the arch constructed by next year.

“We also have a mayor who the Veterans are very dear to him too, and he was also a driving force,” Holzinger said. “He’s travelled all over and looked at different parks and had visions for this park as well, so that’s something that I’m hoping that with our new mayor, that this will also go far as well.”

One of the veterans Holzinger was able to bring into the project was Purple Heart recipient Larry Shaw of Marion, Indiana. The project is one of many Shaw has been involved with over the years, which he considers an honor to be a part of.

“It’s to honor all of the Veterans that did receive the purple heart, but it also honors all of the other veterans too because they get to come and see what’s being done, especially in Huntington with that memorial that they have there at Memorial Park,” said Shaw. “It’s a fantastic thing and I just wish more towns would do something like that.”

Shaw was a major force behind Huntington becoming an official Purple Heart City. He says Huntington shows fantastic support for veterans, which he believes is why the community backs projects like the gateway arch so strongly.

Shaw served in the Vietnam War from December of 1965 to November of 1967, where he had the job of jumping out of helicopters and cutting down trees for the others to be able to land. He says although he never attained a high rank, his time in the military has given him the opportunity to come back and get involved in Veterans organizations.

Shaw has served as an officer in some form since 1985, including as past state commander of the VFW, a past five-time state commander of the Purple Heart, titles of chapter and post commander of several chapters and posts, and two years as judge advocate for the state for the Disabled American Veterans (DAV).

“Those of us who receive a Purple Heart and made it back, we owe so much more because God gave us a second chance,” Shaw said. “So we need to do all we can to help our fellow veterans and their families and our communities.”

Shaw was the recipient of a bronze star for valor for helping a fellow comrade that was hurt during his service in Vietnam.

At the Purple Heart Corridor Gateway Arch’s kickoff night on Oct. 16, the campaign raised $6,500 from the VFW, Purple Heart, and other community members. Another big night for the Gateway Arch campaign was Nov. 4, where the American Legion Post 7 donated $1,500 to their campaign.

A campaign is currently set up at the Huntington County Community Foundation where the community is invited to contribute to the project, and the progress of the project can be followed on the Purple Heart Gateway Arch Facebook page.