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Mother continues to press County Council to name new county park after her son

Rendering of a county park planned for the former Sammelmann Farm and Homestead

The mother of a U.S. Marine killed in Afghanistan continues to ask St. Charles County officials to name the county’s newest park in honor of her son rather than simply naming it to honor veterans.

St. Charles resident Julie Vinnedge, the mother of Marine Lance Cpl. Phillip Vinnedge, who was killed in 2010, questioned an ordinance taken up earlier this month by the St. Charles County Council that would name the park “Veterans Tribute Park.”

Vinnedge and her husband, David, along with other supporters, first came before the council last July asking for the 120-acre park under development at Kisker and Pitman roads to be named after their son. However, the council agreed to a bill setting up a nine-member committee to recommend a name honoring county veterans who died in combat.

The committee recommended the name “Veterans Tribute Park” to the council and County Executive Steve Ehlmann in November. An ordinance that would approve that recommendation came before the council at its Jan. 8 meeting for a first reading and drew comments from Vinnedge.

The council took no action after the bill’s first reading; however, it may come before the council for a final decision on Jan. 29.

During public comments, Vinnedge questioned the use of the word “soldiers” and other language in the bill.

“If you choose to name this Veterans Tribute Park, I am requesting that each and every one of you look me in the eyes and tell me not only that Lance Cpl. Phillip Vinnedge doesn’t deserve the name [but that] no St. Charles County fallen deserves the honor of having a park named after them.”

Presson, of St. Peters, worked in Afghanistan about the time that Phillip Vinnedge was killed and said, in public comments, that the park should be named for Vinnedge because it personalizes the issue.

“As a veteran, if I see a park called Veterans Tribute Park I will pay attention to it,” Presson said. “If I see it named after a soldier I will go there.  It adds more meaning to it, it’s something else, it’s personalized.”

Councilmember Mike Elam, who represents District 3 where the park is located, said later in the meeting that while the Vinnedge family and supporters have lobbied the county about naming the park after their son, others have said the park should not be named after one person.

As a compromise, the county formed the committee, researched the issue and offered a recommendation, he said.  “I’m good with Veterans Tribute Park,” Elam said. “Whenever you name a park, you’re never going to make everyone happy.”

“At age 18, Phillip raised his right hand and pledged his life to defend the United States of America,” David Vinnedge said at the meeting last July. “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.”

“I need his name said, I need him remembered,” Julie Vinnedge said. “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 memorial be placed in the park with all with all of their names,” David Vinnedge 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 name] that humanizes all of their sacrifices.

“Quite frankly if our family had not stepped forward and intervened this par would be honoring a creek instead of our county’s heroic veterans.”

“Baltic Creek” was the proposed name for the park submitted to the council at its June 12 meeting and tabled before the substitute bill forming the committee was approved.

Ehlmann, who named members to the park name selection committee, agreed with councilmembers who suggested that the committee should look at honoring veterans from various wars.  He noted that the county has only a small statue outside the historic County Courthouse on 3rd Street in St. Charles that lists county veterans killed in World War I.  The 100th anniversary of World War I is in 2018 and the county has discussed refurbishing the statue. He added that there is little in terms of memorials in the county for recent conflicts in the Middle East.

The new park, comprised of about 90 acres of what was known as the Sammelmann Farm and Homestead, is expected to be completed in 2018.

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