CIRCLEVILLE — For one Pickaway County organization, honoring veterans means doing things for them after they’re gone, including taking care of their graves and paying tribute to the country’s military history.
The Soldiers Monumental Association of Pickaway County takes on that task by organizing the Memorial Day parade in Circleville, replacing the headstones on veterans’ graves when necessary and doing upkeep, placing flags for the holidays and running the military museum – located in Memorial Hall – which has been closed in recent years for remodeling. The association also owns the land where the Vietnam Memorial is located inside of Ted Lewis Park.
Pete Hartinger, property officer for the organization, said membership to the organization is key to bringing back the museum and keeping with the organization’s mission to honor veterans with new gravestones after they’ve fallen into disrepair.
One of the obstacles for membership, Hartinger said, is that people think you have to have prior military service to join, which is not the case.
“We are a patriotic club like any other veteran organizations with one big difference – we also accept members who don’t have prior military service,” he said. “We’ve had non-military members for years. Jack Mader, Tony Robinson and Grant Clifton are good examples of this and are valuable members of the S.M.A.”
In total, there are between 50 and 60 members, which is down about 30 from its all-time high. Hartinger said the group meets on the first floor of Memorial Hall on the second Monday of the month at 7 p.m. and about 12 show up on average to that meeting.
The museum was closed in 2017 after a roof leak caused a portion of the ceiling to collapse, sending plaster everywhere. Despite the damage, no artifacts were damaged but they had to be relocated while the museum underwent renovations. which required finding enough help to move some extremely heaving cabinets.
“It has a treasure of donated artifacts related to our local involvement in military history,” Hartinger said of the museum’s contents. “My favorite is the picture of Camp Sherman. If you go to our website you can see pictures of what it looked like before we had the remodel.”
Sid Liming, president of the association, said they hope to re-open the museum later this year, hopefully in time for Pumpkin Show in October.
“That’s our target date,” he said. “If we make it or not it depends on what we get done this summer. There’s a little bit of cleanup and rearranging to get done.”
Hartinger said they lost a key member when Dennis Lester died earlier this year. Lester was previously president of the organization in addition to being a commander of AMVETS in Circleville.
“When we lost him it was hard; he was a big pusher for us,” he said.
Membership to the organization is $5 per year and applications for membership can be picked up by contacting Hartinger at 740-474-6773,or Treasurer Terry Sloan at 864-314-2232 or by visiting the organization’s website at http://soldiersmonumental.org/.