CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — It’s been decades since one Centre County family has seen or heard from their loved one who went missing in action during the Vietnam War. Now, they’re honoring him and all veterans through a new memorial project.
“Grange was looking to put up a flag pole so that when you entered through the Gate 4 off of Route 45, you would see an American Flag flying,” Deb Burger, who is helping to organize the project, said.
Burger and her family are building a veteran tribute project at the Grange Fairgrounds to honor and remember all who served. That includes her brother, Major Lewis P. Smith, who was a pilot in the U.S. Air Force.
“I was in 5th grade when our brother was shot down. He was shot down on actual Memorial Day, May 30, 1968,” Burger said. “I had promised my mother when she was passing away that we won’t stop. We would continue to try to fight to get Louis back.”
The tribute will feature the American Flag as well as the POW/MIA Flag. The flags will be surrounded by black markers signifying the branches of the military and featuring POW/MIA insignias.
Project Manager Neil Henry with Green Horizon Landscape said the project is estimated to cost $80,000 to complete. Construction has already begun thanks to volunteering efforts by local scout troops.
“Unique to this project will be the memorials that are inlaid in to it and around the flag pole,” Henry said. “We’re very excited to work on it and make it something that’s going to last a very long time.”
Construction is set to be finished sometime in 2024.
Burger said she and her family hope this project will help inspire families whose loved ones are MIA/POW to not lose hope.
“Our brother is not the only one that is missing. There are over 5,000 in just the state of Pennsylvania,” Burger said. “We’d like to try to keep that mission to help all of the families get the possible accounting that we would like to have for our brother.”
The family is working to raise $80,000 for the project through donations from the community. If you’re interested in helping, you can email Deb at firstname.lastname@example.org or make checks payable to Centre County Grange Encampment, with POW/MIA Veteran Tribute in the memo line.