Local veterans want to be taken more seriously

A group of veterans wants to be taken more seriously in Milford and they want to see veterans get more involved in their community: Several recently stepped up to call for some changes in Milford.

For one, local veterans have asked Milford's aldermen to help them in their efforts to have the Parson's Government Center auditorium officially recognized, with signs, as the Veteran's Memorial Auditorium. They also have proposed an ordinance that would give more power to  the Veterans, Ceremony and Parade Commission by renaming it the Veterans Commission and refocusing its mission.

Among other changes, a new ordinance recommended by veteran Joseph Viscount suggests that veterans be called upon to help other city departments during times of trouble, helping the “fire and police commission as a reserve augmentation source of volunteers to help during natural disasters and civil unrest.”

“A committee established within the commission [Veterans Coalition] shall in such event muster personnel from their respective organizations,” Viscount wrote in his proposed ordinance.

Viscount said local veterans, who have experience protecting their country, still want to play a part in keeping their community safe.

“We've still got life left in us,” Viscount said.

Viscount has made a number of suggestions regarding Milford veterans. He wants to see the Veterans, Ceremony and Parade Commission name changed to the Veterans Commission because he believes the current name is too restrictive.

“The present title is restrictive and does not address the full measure of the commission's services and duties and potential duties to the city,” Viscount wrote in his draft ordinance.

He also wants the board to consist of 10 members rather than 7, including two representatives from the  Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Disabled American Veterans and Vietnam Veterans of America.

In addition to suggesting the commission muster volunteers in the case of a natural disaster, his recommended ordinance adds oversight of the city war monuments “insuring that each has the names of the fallen embedded on their respective monument.”

The commission also would oversee The Hall of Honor in the Veterans Auditorium Lobby of the Parson Complex “to insure regular accessibility to the citizens of Milford to view mounted name plaques, insure that they are current for WW I, WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War. To add the Persian Gulf Wars I & II, Afghanistan War and any future or earlier wars,” he wrote

Eric Muth, a well-known Milford veteran, agrees there are a number of veterans’ issues that need to be addressed.

“As I see it 2014 ought to be the year we veterans lead in doing what others have failed to do for veterans,” Muth wrote in a note to fellow veterans.

Creating a sign for the Parsons Auditorium is high on the list. “Currently the former Milford High School Auditorium is signed by the word ‘auditorium’ and that is weathered and worn,” Muth said.

Plaques need to reflect the proper name and be consistent in listing people who have served their country. Also, Muth wants to see this place of honor accessible to the public. Now, “The auditorium is generally locked and if an entry key can be found, reading names is generally precluded due to a lack of lighting,” Muth said. “The light switch is located on the stage area, but the access doors to the stage are locked from the inside, precluding entry for the general public.”

The auditorium was officially dedicated to veterans in 1951, Muth said.

“Another real concern I have is about the Johnson Military Museum packed in boxes and rotting for 30 years in the Fowler building,” Muth said. “My donations and others were accepted by [former] Mayor Jagoe, but the museum never came to be.”

Mayor Ben Blake said the Veterans, Ceremony and Parade Commission will take up the matter this week and then forward any suggested changes to the aldermen, if change is supported.

“Many of these structural concerns were  already addressed in 2011 when the Board of Aldermen adopted a new ordinance creating the Veterans, Ceremony and Parade Commission,” Blake said. “With respect to the proposed rededication of the Veterans Memorial Auditorium and the veteran’s volunteer program, I’ve asked that those suggestions be taken up at the VCPC’s meeting [this week.]”

Greg Smith, a Veterans, Ceremony and Parade Commission member who chaired the Board of Aldermen when the commission was restructured in 2011, said he will keep an open mind regarding the requests for change.

“I think the Veterans, Ceremony and Parade Commission must first and foremost focus on its core mission, to preserve Milford's Memorial Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day traditions,” Smith said. “The VCPC also serves as an information resource for the mayor, Board of Aldermen, and individual veterans and families. I am open-minded to changes to the ordinance we adopted in 2011, but only to the extent that the changes do not interfere with the core responsibilities of the commission.”