City Council approves supplemental funding for Vietnam Memorial at Midwest City High School
By Jeff Harrison
A community grant program has stirred emotions at City Hall in recent weeks.
But the mood was jubilant Tuesday night when Midwest City officials approved more than a half a million dollars in community projects.
The City Council awarded $450,000 for 18 community projects in the Midwest City Memorial Hospital Authority grant program, as well as up to $90,000 in matching funds for a Vietnam Memorial at Midwest City High School.
The Hospital Authority grants will provide equipment, technology and programs for public and private organizations. They include such projects as computers at Midwest City High School, gas monitors and gas ID analyzer for the fire department, wireless system at Autumn House, among others.
The Midwest City Memorial Hospital Authority Board of Grantors presented their recommendations to the city council for approval at the Feb. 27 meeting. The group recommended awarding $450,000 for 18 different community projects as part of the annual grant program.
The MCHS Vietnam Memorial was among the six projects not recommended for approval by the advisory committee. The $179,860.88 request was the largest of the 26 proposals. It was also the second consecutive year that project was not recommended.
Several councilmembers and MCHS alumni passionately defended the project as a way to honor fallen heroes. After hearing several testimonies, Mayor Matt Dukes said the city would look for alternative funding for the MCHS Vietnam Memorial project.
On Tuesday night, the city council agreed to provide up to $90,000 in matching funds for the Vietnam Memorial project. The money will be taken from the Hospital Authority’s discretionary fund balance.
City Manager Guy Henson said, in a memo, that the discretionary funds are typically used for the purpose of real estate investments, economic development initiatives, and the annual grant program.
In the agreement, the city requested that the memorial honor all Midwest City residents who died in Vietnam, as well as local veterans. The city also asked that the memorial will be open and accessible to the general public.
Nancy Rice, who serves on the Authority Board of Grantors, said she enjoys serving on the advisory committee and thanked the council for approving their recommendations. She said one of the primary issues with the Vietnam Memorial was access, and suggested expanding the current Veterans Memorial at Joe B. Barnes Regional Park.
“We already have a gorgeous veteran’s monument on Douglas and one of the reasons it was put there is for community access,” she said. “Putting something at a high school pretty much means that people can’t go there during the day.”
Bob Osmond, MCHS Vietnam Memorial committee chair, was among several alumni present at the meeting. He and others broke into applause after the council unanimously approved the supplemental funding.
“I’m very pleased the city will be funding the memorial,” he said after the vote. “We’ve been working on this for four years and we’ve applied for a grant the last two years. And we appreciate the support that the city council has given us.”
The Veterans Memorial will include a black granite “Wall of Honor” displaying the names of the 22 MCHS students who died in Vietnam. It would be situated in a tree-lined circular plaza with flag poles and bench seating on the south side of the campus. The plaza leading up to the wall will contain pavers and bricks for honoring all other military veterans.
The committee is raising money for the project by selling commemorative challenge coins, pavers and bricks and through donations.
The concept was designed by Tony Callaway, an architect and Vietnam veteran, who donated the design drawings and promotional video.
The Mid-Del School Board approved the design in 2016, and the project is also endorsed by the non-profit Midwest City High School Museum and History Center, where the outdoor memorial wall will be constructed.
The Midwest City High School students who died while serving in the Vietnam War include:
Rex B. Freeman (Class of 1953), Allen P. Miller (Class of 1960), Donald L. Bernard (Class of 1963), Edward G. Baker, James L. Eatmon, John K. Johnson, James “Delton” Moffett (Class of 1964), Larry L. Riley, Lawrence S. Robbins, Sammy R. Smith (Class of 1965), Benjamin F. Bolding, Randall H. Burnsed, Stephen R. Costello, Stephen S. Donohue, Michael R. Finerty, James D. Guffey, Randall L. McElreath (Class of 1966), Jerry A. Kaiser, Kenneth W. Skinner (Class of 1967), Ronald C. High, Albin L. Kendall, Jimmy D. Sanders (Class of 1968).