'Until everyone is accounted for and returned'
Wellingtonian Cpl. Donald E. Maybaugh, one of only two POW survivors of WWII from Ohio, and hundreds of MIA/POW soldiers from across the state, will be permanently honored in Wellington.
Blair Miles, POW/MIA chairman of the Sons of the American Legion, along with the American Legion Post No. 8, have created a Patio of Honor dedicated to preserving the memory and history of an elite group of veterans.
The Patio of Honor surrounds the flagpole in front of the American Legion building and was constructed in the shape of Ohio. Every paver laid depicts the POW/MIA soldier’s name, hometown, branch of service and date missing.
“In the state of Ohio, there are 448 ‘un-accounted for’ MIAs from the Korean War and 77 from the Vietnam War,” Miles said.
The Patio of Honor has a paver for each missing hero, where bricks are darker and lighter to signify the specific war. In the middle of the state-shaped memorial, there is an elevated platform for “accounted for” POWs.
“From the state of Ohio, there are 60 ‘accounted for’ POWs from Vietnam and eight ‘accounted for’ POWs from Korea,” Miles said.
Any soldier who returns home from captivity, whether they escaped, walked, came back alive or dead, is considered returned.
A soldier who went missing in 1950 returned this past September and now his paver is elevated to the center platform for eternity.
The paver project started last May, when the MIA commission of the state of Ohio wanted POW/MIA chairman Miles to do a special project in honor of the lost heroes.
“The local legion had their gun raffle and all the proceeds were to go to this new project. It was an astronomical amount of funds, but I didn’t have an idea yet,” Miles said.
The first thing Miles did was research. The website www.dtic.mil/dpmo had state by state and war by war breakdowns for all the POW/MIA soldiers.
Once Miles got an idea of the numbers in Ohio, a patio made sense and the project was underway.
The Patio of Honor was originally going to be constructed along the side of the building, but Miles was concerned about smokers standing outside the building, and wanted it to be special.
“It used to just be a flag pole out here, so I thought of it as a challenge,” Miles said.
The permanence of the patio serves as a constant reminder of the sacrifice of so many, and the need to be aware of how fewer and fewer soldiers are MIA.
“Operation Iraqi Freedom, which just ended, had only one official MIA,” Miles said.
“War has evolved, MIA is unacceptable. It’s like dropping your kids off at the sitter. When you go back to pick them up, they say, I don’t know where he is, he’s gone. You wouldn’t accept that. No one would,” Miles said.
There were different additions and tweaks to the project that led to a sidewalk fundraiser, where residents could buy a paver for the sidewalk leading out to the patio, and personalize it with a name or message of their choice.
The public’s interest and support led to the construction of two World War benches, and plans to honor more soldiers from past wars are in the mix.
“There are still 800 more bricks that can be purchased, and we’re not making money on this. All branches of service are recognized and we’ll be expanding into other wars as well,” Miles said.
Do to the sad truth of America’s POW/MIAs, Miles can keep adding on to the project.
“There’s still more to do, unfortunately, we can keep going on this,” Miles said.
by ADAM FOX