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Mineral Area Veterans Club raising funds for Marquand War Memorial

In conjunction with the Madison County Historical Society the Mineral Area Veterans Club is raising funds for a war memorial in Marquand.

The current memorial is a red granite marker that lists the names of 23 area soldiers who died during service.

“It was erected 40 years ago and the bronze plate is showing its age,” Mineral Area College Professor Todd Kline said. “The club’s original mission was to have the plaque refinished and reinstalled. Then we decided to go a step further and build something that will raise the profile of the monument.”

Kline said that the club has decided to have a 48-by-30-inch gray granite monument which will be set in a brick foundation.

Marquand Mayor Denny Ward said it is an honor for the entire community to have the veterans recognized and memorialized through the efforts by MAC’s Veterans Club.

“The memorial has been an important part of the Marquand landscape for many years, but has failed to have prominence in placement as those who remembered it’s significance have passed on,” Ward said. “Having these veterans recognized and memorialized through this effort by MAC’s Veterans Club is more than significant, its an honor.” 

While the club is still in the early stages of the project, Kline said fundraising efforts have already exceeded expectations.

The club held a fundraiser Mardi Gras Luncheon Feb. 13 where it served closed to 200 meals and ran out of food. 

The initial goal of the club was to raise $300 to refinish the current monument but that goal has been raised to $2,500 in order to expand on the monument.

Ward said Kline has made sure to include the community in the planning efforts and final plans will be determined by the amount of available funding. 

“In a perfect world it will be lighted and have its own flag pole,” Ward said. “Anyone wishing to contribute to the project is encouraged to contact Todd (Kline) or Ruth Ann Skaggs (Madison County Historical Society).”

When asked why they chose Marquand, Kline said he came across the monument while researching 28 local soldiers who died in Vietnam.

“I came across bits and pieces of info on all of the soldiers,” Kline said. “Most of the information obtained early came from the virtual wall but you will notice that we found out a lot about these two (Marquand soldiers) from a book titled ‘Scars of Vietnam’ by Harry Spiller. Harry’s book mentioned that there was a memorial in Marquand honoring those lost in war.”

When Kline visited Marquand to inspect the memorial, he noticed the nameplate was in need of refinishing.

“Quotes for that run in the $300 to $500 range and I decided that it would be a good project for the club,” Kline said. “The next thing we know we started talking about adding a monument to the existing one.”

Clifford D. Combs and Lawrence (Larry) S. Mills are the two Marquand soldiers Kline was referencing from Spiller’s book, both of whom were recruited in 1968 by Spiller himself.

“Both of these soldiers graduated high school, went to boot camp, deployed to Vietnam and were buried within a year,” Kline said. “Clifford Combs was in Vietnam for five weeks, got in a firefight, was shot in the leg below the knee and bled to death because the medics couldn’t get to him. Larry Mills died five weeks later when he went to see a movie in a relatively safe area. Someone threw a grenade in the five ton he was riding in on the way to his living quarters.”

Kline said a local citizen recalled the time as being a “total nightmare” for the town, saying that both boys grew up in Marquand and were popular. Having them both killed, a month apart, was difficult to take and was really hard for the younger people to handle.

“I was a youngster at the time, but I do recall being at the Homan Store with my grandfather when the news was announced that Larry Mills had been killed in combat,” Ward said. “I just remember the somberness that blanketed the community as we learned of the others who lost their lives.”

Mills is buried at Rhodes Chapel Cemetery looking over Castor River Valley.

“It is a beautiful cemetery with majestic pine tress, the grandeur of the Castor River valley is spread out before you,” Kline said. “You can see many of the places where Dale and Larry lived. Cottoner Mountain, the Roscoe hole, Grounds Creek and the low water bridge are close by. If you ever get out that way think of Larry and Dale and think of all our soldiers that went to Vietnam. Think of the family and friends they left behind. Think of the wonderful childhoods they had. They would be almost 70 years old now. What would they be doing?”

According to Spiller’s book, he recruited four soldiers from Marquand who died in the Vietnam War but only two have been identified by Kline.

“One of them moved to another town and that may have been his hometown of record when the military reported it,” Kline said. “Some of the locals say that over 15 to 20 were drafted or served. For such a small town, they paid a steep price.”

The 23 soldiers on the memorial are Everett E. Barrett, Clifford D. Combs, Tony Weston, John F. Griffon, George C. Johnson, Thomas C. Wallis, James A. Reagan, William D. Marshall, Theodore Westbrook, Charles FM Underwood, Normal H. Henson, Lawrence S. Mills, Randall Allbright, Charles W. Hovis, Lesley A. Jones, Stanley B. Cluck, Legal T. Butler, John P. Johnson, Dewey W. Robinson, Clyde S. Osborn, E. J. Lorance, Chester E. Thorpe and Orville Dudley.

Kline said the soldiers are from all wars starting with World War I and Henson died in the Battle of the Bulge. Barrett, Underwood and Lorance also died in World War I but it was difficult to find information on the rest. 

If you would like to assist with the project, checks can be made payable to Mineral Area College Veterans Club, C/O Todd Kline, P.O. Box 1000, Park Hills, MO 63601.

Here is the Marquand War Memorial currently on display in Marquand.

Here is the Marquand War Memorial currently on display in Marquand.

PFC Lawrence Steven Mills of Marquand died April 11, 1969, during the Vietnam War.

PFC Lawrence Steven Mills of Marquand died April 11, 1969, during the Vietnam War.

PFC Clifford Dale Combs from Marquand died Feb. 29, 1969 in the Vietnam War.

PFC Clifford Dale Combs from Marquand died Feb. 29, 1969 in the Vietnam War.

Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at vkemper@demcoratnewsonline.com

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