The family of a Marine who died in Afghanistan is asking that St. Charles County’s newest park be named in his honor and that it include a memorial honoring county veterans killed in action. But the County Council, which makes such decisions, stopped short of granting the request at its July 10 meeting.
The park in question is the 120-acre park under development at Kisker and Pitman Hill roads.
The council did agree to a bill setting up a nine-member committee to recommend a name honoring county veterans who died in combat. County Executive Steve Ehlmann will name members, who will forward their recommendations to the council.
The council took that action after a group of residents, led by David and Julie Vinnedge, turned out in force at the July 10 meeting, asking that the county name the park after their son, Marine Lance Cpl. Phillip Vinnedge, of St. Charles, who was killed in October 2010. The group included other Gold Star parents, the designation signifying that their child was killed in combat.
“At age 18, Phillip raised his right hand and pledged his life to defend the United State of America,” said David. “At age 19, with his last breath, Phillip kept that promise. Phillip was not even old enough to legally enjoy a beer at a Cardinals game.”
Phillip graduated in 2009 from Francis Howell Central High.
“I need his name said, I need him remembered,” Julie told councilmen. “Every morning when I get up, I ask Phil, ‘What can I do to honor you and your fallen brothers?’ And that’s what I try to do every day.
The Vinnedges presented two petitions, one gathered online with 2,700 signatures, including signatures of about 600 residents, and a second paper petition with 1,700 signatures gathered locally, they said. The petitions ask that the county name the park “LC Phillip Vinnedge Park.”
“It is our desire that this park honor all of St. Charles County’s fallen heroes. We ask that a memorial be placed in the park with all of their names,” David said. “To those that would say that this park should have a more generic name, I ask how a generic name does more to invoke the memory of all of our heroes than a namesake that humanizes all of their sacrifices.
“Quite frankly, if our family had not stepped forward and intervened, this park would be honoring a creek instead of our county’s heroic veterans.”
Baltic Creek was the proposed name, submitted to the council at its June 12 meeting and dropped when the substitute bill forming the committee was approved. David said the number of petition signatures gives the council a “mandate” to name the park after his son.
The bill forming the committee states that committee members are to include veterans of Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan; at least two family members of veterans who died in service; and a representative from veterans’ organizations in the county. Its recommendations are required within 90 days of its first meeting.
Councilmember Joe Cronin [District 1] questioned any exclusion of veterans of World War II and other wars, and said he wanted the committee to decide which wars should be included. But Councilmember David Hammond [District 4] said there has been plenty of recognition for veterans of the world wars and the Korean War, but not so much for recent wars. He said he would like the park to be named “Gold Family” park and to include a memorial to other veterans.
Councilmember Joe Brazil [District 2] said he would like the committee to include some of the people involved in the effort to name the park for Lance Cpl. Vinnedge.
Ehlmann agreed with Cronin that the committee should look at honoring county veterans from other wars. He noted that the county has only a small statue outside the historic county courthouse on Third Street in St. Charles, which lists county veterans killed in World War I.
Next year is the 100th anniversary of World War I, and the county may budget funding in that year to refurbish the statue. “I think that is one of the things this committee should look at. The county really hasn’t done anything for 100 years in terms of recognizing these people at a public place,” Ehlmann said.
He added there is little in terms of county memorials for recent conflicts in the Middle East. “For sure, I think anyway, we need to do something for them and let the veterans’ committee decide how far back we need to go and what exactly we need to do, and tell us what it’s going to cost, too.”
The new park is expected to be completed in 2018. The county is expected to develop about 90 acres of what was once known as the Sammelmann Farm and Homestead.