By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: May 7, 2018 | 12:00 p.m.
PRINCE GEORGE – As Memorial Day approaches, now less than a month away, the Prince George Regional Heritage Center is preparing to honor the sacrifice of several Prince George service-members who gave their lives in defense of our nation by forever memorializing their names on the grounds of the center.
During the Prince George Board of Supervisors’ monthly work session last month, representatives from the center spoke to leaders about their plans to add five names to the two stone monuments outside the heritage center, including four service members who died during the War on Terrorism and one who perished during World War II.
According to the center, over the past five years, their staff has been working to identify those fallen servicemen and women who came from Prince George County and put together additional information about who they are, when and where they died, the branch of military and unit they served in, where they are buried or if they are missing in action, who their survivors are, among other information and, through this time-intensive research, they discovered that several fallen service-members have not been added to the county’s war memorial outside the historic courthouse building.
In total, five names will be added to the two stone monuments, with Michael H. Burchell being added to the county’s monument honoring those who died in World War I and II, as Burchell perished in February of 1945 during the second world war.
The remaining four service-members – Michael M. Carey, Lawrence G. Sprader, Jr., Phillip A. Myers, and Jesse A. Ozbat – would be added to a slightly redesigned memorial stone that will honor those fallen military members from the Korean and Vietnam wars along with the War on Terrorism.
During the discussion, Board Chairman Alan Carmichael praised the center and its staff for its dedication to honoring the county’s fallen service-members.
“I think what you’re doing is outstanding,” he remarked, continuing, “You and your entire group has a lot of data that you have to go back and try and gather, which takes a lot of hours and I know that it is much appreciated by this board and by the families who are certainly very thankful for that work.”
While the supervisors agreed that having the names added to the county’s war memorial was important, some questioned recent actions by the board that they perceived as not providing equal treatment to all of the county’s fallen service-members as two of those who will have their names added the War on Terrorism memorial have had structures and objects named for them.
“We need to be fair and consistent,” Supervisor and U.S. Marine Corps Veteran T.J. Webb said, harkening back to the county’s previous work session in March where he said his concern centered on “setting a precedent” for the way service-members are honored for their sacrifice to their country. In voicing his support for all five of the names to be added to the stone monuments, the supervisor added that he would be bringing a proposal in the future to suggest naming Route 36 between Petersburg and Hopewell, which runs through the heart of Fort Lee, after one of the soldiers while naming with the roundabout at the intersection of Allin and Courthouse roads after the other.
Since January, the Prince George Board of Supervisors has approved two resolutions allowing for the naming of objects and structures after fallen service-members. During their first meeting of 2018 on January 10, supervisors approved a resolution that requested the Middle Road bridge over Interstate 295 be named after Sergeant Lawrence G. Sprader, Jr., who was a member of the U.S. Army and died during a field training exercise at Fort Hood in Texas in June of 2007.
That request went through the General Assembly, carried by Del. Emily Brewer (R-64) and was eventually signed into law by Governor Ralph Northam in March.
The same month that Northam signed the bill formally naming the I-295 bridge after Sprader, supervisors approved a resolution that would seek to name the traffic circle just outside of Fort Lee at the intersection of Jefferson Park, Bull Hill, and Allin roads, and A Avenue after Captain Jesse A. Ozbat following a request from LTC Alvin S. Chandler of the Prince George County Junior ROTC. Ozbat, who was assigned to the 168th Brigade Support Battalion, 214th Fires Brigade out of Fort Sill, Oklahoma, died in May of 2012 after enemy forces attacked his unit with an improvised explosive device, with the last lines of the resolution saying the “‘Ozbat Circle” shall always signify the strong bond between Fort Lee and Prince George County,” as one of the roads linking to the circle leading to the base.
As the discussion continued, Supervisor Floyd Brown, Jr. offered his own perspective, suggesting that while naming something like a roadway, bridge, or another structure after the service-members who were among the four planning to be added to the War on Terrorism memorial is fine, going forward, that may not be an option for other fallen soldiers.
“I think it is fine for us to name something after the ones that we have here, but going forward, I would hope that we would go with their names being added to the monument because we are going to get to a point where we are going to run out of areas or things to name after someone,” Brown remarked. “We do this to catch up with what has already happened, but going forward, the process would be to recognize people through the monument.”
Former supervisor and U.S. Marine Corps veteran Bill Robertson offered his own thoughts during the regular meeting’s public comment period, reiterating supervisors’ recent actions to name objects and structures after fallen heroes, implying special treatment is being given.
“You, as a board, have approved the naming of a bridge overpass for one and a roundabout for another,” he said. “It is time to step forward and honor the other two who do not have friends on the board so all four are honored the same. I agree with Supervisor Webb who said earlier that you should treat the other two the same as the two you have named objects for.”
In response to Supervisor Brown’s suggestion of moving away from naming structures and objects after fallen service members due to the likelihood of those types of structures running out, Robertson remarked that the board “should have thought of this before you started naming anything for anyone.”
“Now, those two are being treated very [differently] than the other two,” the former supervisor closed his comments with.
As of the board’s meeting on April 24, no formal request to name either Route 36 or the Allin/Courthouse Road traffic circle after one of the two fallen service-members has been brought up for consideration.
According to the heritage center, the new memorial stone, which will include the addition of the ongoing War on Terrorism and the four fallen service members’ names will hopefully be in place ahead of the center’s Memorial Day ceremony.