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The city of Farmington received a special designation during a dedication ceremony on the Fourth of July renaming a longtime park to honor those who serve in the military.

Representatives from the POW-MIA Museum at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis presented the city with a proclamation declaring the community a POW-MIA City.

Paul Dillon, president of the museum board, said Farmington demonstrated the characteristics defining a POW-MIA city before the application presentation before the board was made.

“(The community and veterans groups) were doing the work and the support of making people aware,” Dillon said. “I can’t say enough about Farmington….Mayor Larry Forsythe, (City Administrator) Greg Beavers and Dwain Asberry made the presentation – the presentation they made absolutely blew us away.

“It was not a board meeting, it was something that was really neat experience. (Board members) came away from the experience saying, ‘Wow … that was absolutely fantastic.’ If we had to have a model POW-MIA city, it would be Farmington.”

The mayor, city administrator and Asberry, the VFW representative, made the trip to Jefferson Barracks on May 8 at the Jefferson Barracks POW-MIA Museum located on the grounds of the historic location in St. Louis County.

The mayor officially announced the designation during the May 10 Farmington City Council meeting.

“I [made] a presentation to the POW-MIA committee [for Farmington] to become a ‘POW-MIA City’,” Forsythe said. Representatives from the city of Bismarck made similar presentations and received the designation as well. “[Farmington and Bismarck] both got approved, so we are very excited about this.”

According to the website, the Jefferson Barracks POW-MIA Museum, Inc. is a 501C(3) non-profit, non-partisan, all volunteer organization with a Board of Directors, an Executive Committee, and an active Fundraising Committee in place. The museum will be located in the 1898 Officers’ Quarters building.

The website states the Missouri AMVETS, the Missouri American Legion, the Missouri Veterans Commission, the Missouri Department of the American Ex-Prisoners of War, the Missouri AMVETS Ladies Auxiliary, the Missouri Air Force Association, and the Missouri Veterans of Foreign Wars, have joined together to form the Jefferson Barracks POW-MIA Museum, Inc.

The official announcement came during the renaming ceremony for Veterans Park – formerly Jaycee Park – located on Perrine Road.

The Farmington City Council approved renaming the park during the Jan. 11 meeting this year. At the time, Forsythe said he was approached by a citizen asking if there would be a chance for a park to be developed recognizing those who serve in the armed services—both current and retired.

During the naming ceremony, Forsythe expressed his appreciation to veterans in attendance at the ceremony.

“The citizens of Farmington have answered the nation’s call to service during every military action since this city was first founded,” he said. “The city council and I are proud to dedicate this park in your honor for the sacrifice of both those in service and their families.”

Joe Meador, chaplain with VFW Post 5896, delivered the invocation, with remarks from VFW Post Commander Anthony “Bud” Davis, American Legion Post 416 Commander Eric Norem and AmVets Post 113 Commander Tony Carroll.

“Today we celebrate our independence as a country,” Davis said, “independence that was earned by the fighting spirit of what we believe to be right and become the land of the free and truly the home of the brave. Every veteran enters the service for different reasons. But, when we all donned the uniform and wore that flag on our shoulders, we knew that we were all part of something larger than ourselves.”

Davis said the naming of the park shows the citizens of the community recognize the sacrifices veterans have endured – and what is asked of those currently serving in the military.

“On behalf of all veterans of foreign wars, I thank you for this park,” he said.

Norem said the renaming of the park in honor of the sacrifices made by veterans reinforces a conversation he had with his father.

“When I was growing up, I asked him about his service in the Korean War,” he said. “He brushed it aside and often told me he did was he was supposed to do. He volunteered to serve before he was drafted. He would tell me he went, served honorably and came home.

He said his father told him the Korean War – often called the “forgotten war” – should remain as such.

“He admonished me not to forget the boys who went to Vietnam and fought there,” Norem said. “[His father] said they bore the burdens of the world for a cause nobody wanted to claim responsibility for. Today, we take another step toward continuing to immortalize the trials endured by POWs and the sacrifices – including the ultimate sacrifice paid by our MIAs.

“May we forever remain a nation concerned and committed to achieving a full accounting of all POWS and MIAs from all war eras. This means returning the living POWs, the repatriation of remains of those killed in action or finding convincing evidence why neither possible, thus ending uncertainty for their families and their nation is.”

Carroll noted the recognition by the city was a “wonderful gesture by the city, and shows they recognize and appreciation their veterans in this community.”

Joe Black, president of the AmVets Post 113 Riders, presented two checks during the ceremony. The money was raised through a poker run and trivia night events.

A donation in the amount of $677 was from the POW-MIA Poker Run was presented to Dillon for the museum. The trivia night raised $800 for the museum as well.

Following the ceremony, Forsythe noted the work – and service – of veterans of VFW Post 5896, American Legion Post 416 and AmVets Post 113 in bringing the renaming to fruition. Dillon noted that work as well.

“All the veterans groups get together,” Dillon said. “All of them are grabbing an oar and pulling. They don’t care where they are in the boat – they’re grabbing an ore and they’re pulling. It’s because of the men and women they are wanting to honor.”

Dillon gave recognition to board member Russ Whitener for his vision on the POW-MIA City designation program.

During his presentation, Dillon noted the sacrifices made by Farmington residents during wartime – and the work of the community to honor those individuals.

“I always get the feeling – especially with you folks in Farmington – that I’m preaching to the choir,” Dillon said, “as far as [the importance of remembering] POW-MIAs.”

He said the “first thing that comes to my mind is Reginald Cleve.”

A ceremony was held back in March in Farmington on the 47th anniversary of Warrant Officer Reginald David Cleve being shot down in Laos.

The ceremony was held on the steps of the St. Francois County Courthouse in downtown Farmington, with the crowd filling the southern courthouse lawn. A photograph of Cleve, a Farmington native, was displayed over a memorial stone placed near the southern courthouse steps in his honor.

Cleve was born Aug. 2, 1947, to parents Carl and Nell Cleve and grew up on a farm near Farmington. He attended school in Farmington and was a member of the Farmington Methodist Church. He was married to Karen Pingel, daughter of Ralph and Hallie Pingel.

While pursuing a degree in engineering at the University of Missouri in Rolla, Cleve volunteered to join the Army. He was a member of the 176th Aviation Company, 14th Battalion, 10th Aviation Group, 23rd Infantry Division.

When Cleve and his crew were shot down, they were on a resupply mission to the Savannakhet province in Laos. Because of the heavy concentration of enemy troops in the area, there was no search and rescue attempt for the crew. Their official status is “killed in action-bodies not recovered, MIA.”

“Farmington – and Reginald … you all are a very special part of the museum,” Dillon said. “I want to thank all of you for your support. The museum belongs to all of you. The most important names belong to our POWs and MIAs.”

Dillon said the mission of the museum is to honor all who served the country captured by enemies of the United States or are missing in action from any year and any conflict.

“As part of this mission and in an effort to raise POW-MIA awareness across the nation, the Jefferson Barracks POW-MIA Museum established the POW-MIA City program. It is an open invitation to towns, cities and municipalities and soon to be counties across the United States to join together in helping to ensure that our national promise of “no one left behind – no one forgotten” is kept.

Cities receiving the designation are to actively participate in raising the awareness of the public regarding POWs and MIAs.

“That can be as simple as making sure the POW-MIA flag is flown at municipal locations and educating citizens as to what it stands for,” Dillon said.

There are currently eight cities with the designation. Local communities include the village of Caledonia and Bismarck.

Shawnna Robinson is the managing editor of the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-518-3628 or srobinson@farmingtonpressonline.com

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Farmington Press Managing Editor

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