Indian Head memorial honors vets killed in action

Al Turner, commander of the Charles County American Legion, points to Robert A. Painter's name on the Indian Head veterans' memorial at the Indian Head Village Green Pavilion. Painter was recently recognized at a town event.
Al Turner, commander of the Charles County American Legion, points to Robert A. Painter's name on the Indian Head veterans' memorial at the Indian Head Village Green Pavilion. Painter was recently recognized at a town event. (Sara Poynor)

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By Sara Poynor
Maryland Independent
Thursday, March 10, 2011

Each year, Indian Head Mayor Ed Rice selects a name from the town's veterans' memorial and honors that person by telling his story at Memorial Day and Veterans Day events.

The memorial wall bears the names of Charles County residents who were killed in action, said Al Turner, commander of the Charles County American Legion and Post 233.

Town officials and those with Post 233 are seeking the public's help in ensuring that the lives and sacrifices of those whose names are on the wall are not forgotten.

The attempt is the officials' first to learn more about the names on the wall - which was dedicated nearly 40 years ago - in part because Rice hopes to keep the memories of the fallen alive by sharing snippets of their lives.

"We are looking for information from surviving family members or loved ones of veterans who are currently listed" on the memorial, said Karen Lindquist-Williams, the town's community affairs director. "We are also interested in adding to the memorial any Charles County veterans who were killed in action during World War I, World War II, Vietnam War, Korean War, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan wars."

The memorial, at Indian Head Village Green Park, was dedicated Nov. 11, 1972, said William Groves, past commander of American Legion Post 233. The monument, which is made of cinderblock, granite bricks and concrete, has not been updated since it was created.

The town has conducted annual events to honor veterans for more than 30 years. In recent years, the events have been held at the Indian Head Village Green Pavilion and feature words from senior members of the military in addition to those from the 74-year-old Rice, who served as mayor from 2003 to 2005 and from 2009 to the present.

Last year, at the town's Memorial Day ceremony, Rice spoke about Melvin Johnson, who was 19 when a German submarine sank his ship - the USS Plymouth - on Aug. 5, 1943. Johnson is presumed to be the first native Charles resident killed during World War II, Rice said at the ceremony.

Johnson was the oldest of five children, who worked many jobs, including as a mail delivery truck driver, a water boy during construction of the Gov. Harry W. Nice Bridge in the late 1930s and sports columnist for the Times-Crescent newspaper.

At last year's Veterans Day ceremony, Rice recognized David Winkler, who was born May 29, 1939, on a farm in Bennsville.

In 1957, Winkler joined the Army Reserve and was a member of the 815th tank group stationed in Indian Head. He later served in Korea, Germany and Vietnam, where he was injured when his tank hit a land mine. After his recovery, he requested another tour and was sent back Oct. 3, 1969. He was killed 23 days later while on the way to join his new unit.

Rice said March 2 that he thinks the men whose names are on the wall have been "largely forgotten."

"They are just names on a monument, and I'd like for people to be made aware of why their names are on there, what they did, what kind of people they were, what they contributed to the town and the country, and the service they provided," Rice said. "I just wanted to try to bring them back and for a moment, go over who they were and what they did."

Turner, a Vietnam veteran, said that family members of the honored soldiers sometimes attend the town's ceremonies, adding that "they still shed tears."

"It brings back memories and also makes them proud . . . their relative is recognized," he said.

Anyone with information about the men whose names are on the veterans' wall or knows someone whose name should be on the memorial can call Turner at 302-220-3343 or Lindquist-Williams at 240-375-4061.

spoynor@somdnews.com


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