ATHENS, Ala. — Skip Ferguson, a retired U.S. Marine and commandant of the local Marine Corps League, won approval earlier this month to place two new monuments on the Limestone County Courthouse lawn, but he also hopes to fix an existing monument.
The new monuments will recognize the county's honored dead who fell in combat in Beirut, Iraq and Afghanistan, and Ferguson has launched a fundraising campaign to garner the $800 to $1,000 needed to pay for them.
But Ferguson has another project on his to-do list: Correcting a spelling error on the nearby Vietnam War monument and adding the names of five fallen servicemen missing from the monument.
The monument lists the names of 19 Limestone County residents who were casualties in the Vietnam War and incorrectly spells Vietnam as "VIEINAM."
The spelling error is literally set in stone, but Ferguson said he believes it can be corrected without replacing the monument and that any missing names can be added with the placement of a smaller stone at its base.
"There's a gentleman that does that. It's just a question of getting him out there," he said.
Before he can work up a cost estimate, Ferguson has research to do, saying he wasn't sure when the monument was placed at the courthouse or who put it there.
"I've heard from other veterans originally from Athens that names are missing," he said.
The monument lists the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Disabled American Veterans, but attempts to contact those groups were unsuccessful.
Retired U.S. Air Force Master Sergeant Bill Schueler, former president of the local chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America, said he has heard before that five names are missing, but he didn't know who placed the monument or which names were missing.
In the late '90s, the local VVA raised $50,000 to place another Vietnam War memorial, listing all of the state's war dead, at the Interstate 65 rest stop in Elkmont.
County Commission Chairman Mark Yarbrough said he had never noticed the spelling error before and was unaware of it until Ferguson mentioned it in a commission work session.
Ferguson said he wasn't sure how much fixing the monument would cost, but his fundraising effort for the new monuments was so far off to a slow start. As of Thursday, he had raised just $10.
Donations for the new monuments can be mailed to Marine Corps League, Detachment 1166, P.O. Box 1216, Athens, AL 35612, or dropped off at the Alabama Veterans Museum on Pryor Street.
One will list the name of Maj. William Ellis Winter, a Marine who died in Beirut in 1983. The other will list the names of Lance Cpl. Adam Loggins, a Marine who died in in Iraq in 2007, and Pfc. Ricky L. Turner, a U.S. Army soldier who died in Iraq in 2009.
Ferguson said space will be left on the second monument because the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are not over. He is not yet raising money to correct the Vietnam monument.