History of the Jefferson County Veterans Association
In 1995, three Korean War Veterans, Gene Omaits, Ed Waldman, and Fred McGee, were on their way home from a sight-seeing trip to Washington DC which had been sponsored by Korean War Veterans Chapter 70 in St. Clairsville, Ohio. During the bus trip home, they began discussing the possibility of a War Memorial Museum to be located somewhere in the Jefferson County Park Area of what is now Fort Friendship. Joe Hickle talked to representatives from Hanna Coal in to donating the area which is now the Jefferson County Veterans Memorial Museum.
Gene Omaits did a fantastic job in recruiting members, having fund drives, dinners, etc. to raise money to start the museum. Once the initial funds were raised, a Tank, Howitzer, Artillery guns and bunkers were erected along with a 80’ Flag Pole. Later, a Jet Plane was added and after a trip to Sandusky’s Plum Brook Park, a small observation airplane was added. The project continued to grow when a replica of the Statue of Liberty and a Prayer Garden was added fulfilling a live long dream of Paul Green.
All the work was accomplished by volunteers who were mainly Korean Was Veterans. Commissioner Walkosky was the only person who offered help by telling the members that funds were available through piggy back taxes. The project then stalled for a few years, but continued close work with the Jefferson County Commissioners paid off and restarted this important local veteran’s project.
In August 2008, Gene Omaits passed away. The Jefferson County Veterans Association fell into disarray and was becoming disorganized. At the invitation of Jay Kolenc, about 10 members from several veterans’ organizations met and reorganized in the field adjacent to the Museum. It was decided that new leadership needed to be elected to continue the tradition started by the founding members. A meeting was scheduled and convened at the Air Terminal Park building and Bill Smythe was elected Commander and he served through 2015 when Frank Santa was elected. Since reorganization, by-laws and a Constitution were created and submitted to Jennifer Brunner, Ohio Secretary of State and our organization has been incorporated. We are currently working to file the appropriate paperwork to become a Tax Exempt Veterans Organization.
Since the reorganization and incorporation, the Jefferson County Veterans Association Inc. has continued to improve the work that was started. Jay Kolenc had an idea to build a shelter, to hold meetings when the weather is good. That was constructed in cooperation with the Jefferson County Commissioners and was erected by the 463rd Engineer Battalion in Weirton. We are now engaged in building a Veterans Memorial Wall. Again, in cooperation with the Jefferson County Commissioners and with the help of Steve Vuckelic, the foundations were dug for the wall. The wall is now completed with each brick will representing a veteran, living or deceased, which has served honorably or is now serving honorably.
Any veteran who served honorably can join our organization for $10 per year or a $100 life membership. Please print and mail in the completed Membership Form.
Meetings are held the first Wednesday of every month at 1:00PM, either at the Air Park Building or the pavilion at the Museum. All veterans are cordially invited to attend our meetings and are welcome to join our group.