$1.5 million memorial missing names
Updated On: Jun 03 2014 12:22:29 AM EDT
They were young -- some just out of high school, some served just one month in combat and others had not lived in Orange County very long -- but their names are forever memorialized outside the Orange County courthouse at a monument dedicated to the area’s fallen veterans who died while serving the country.
Pfc. Otis Bush, a Marine who died just after his 19th birthday in Vietnam, is one of those veterans.
You won’t find Bush’s body in any Central Florida cemetery and you may not be able to track down any surviving relatives who call this area home, but his name will forever be remembered outside the courthouse because at some point in time he had a connection to Orlando.
Despite the national archives listing his home of record as Orlando, however, his name is absent from the brand-new memorial outside the soon to open Veteran’s Affairs hospital in Lake Nona.
The picturesque memorial is the first and only memorial to be opened outside a VA hospital and features a stunning fountain in the center of two opposing rows of panels with names.
The Central Florida Veteran’s Memorial park opened in November and lists the names of fallen veterans from Orange, Osceola, Seminole, Lake and Volusia counties: the six counties that the new hospital will serve.
A Local 6 analysis found 21 name discrepancies between the memorial downtown and the memorial at Lake Nona. Sixteen names did not appear at the newer site and another five were either spelled or categorized differently.
“One of the fellows absolutely should be on the wall, we have his brother,” said DeLloyd Voorhees, Jr. regarding World War I veteran Sam Epps.
Voorhees is a retired colonel from the U.S. Army who serves as president of Central Florida Veterans Memorial Park Foundation, the group that established a 99-year endowment for the Lake Nona project.
According to Voorhees, they’ve raised $2.2 million from both private and public sources so far, with $1.5 million being used to construct it and the rest being set aside for maintenance and updates. Their goal is to raise $3 million.
He said of the list of names provided by Local 6, they are researching and reviewing 12 individuals to make a determination on whether or not they will add them to the wall.
According to Voorhees, they have already found strong evidence to suggest that three names that appear at the courthouse (Epps, Richard White, and Bush) meet the criteria to be added to the newer memorial.
“It's a living memorial, and we want it to be a living memorial, and we wanted to allow ourselves additional space on each of the eras to add names,” said Voorhees.
Their research suggests that some of the names that appear on the Orange County site could be spelled wrong or mixed up.
Douglas Warner, for instance, appears on the Orange County memorial as Warner Douglas.
The 18-year-old died in Vietnam and still has family in Central Florida who confirmed his name was in fact Douglas Warner.
At least three other names appear to be spelled incorrectly at the Orange County memorial.
Robert Lynn, a high school history teacher and military historian, said he did the bulk of the research for the project, which was commemorated in 1998.
He asked Local 6 to investigate discrepancies between the two memorials after noticing some missing names.
“I don't know if they went down to the public library and checked the same records I did, the draft records, the obituaries, things of this nature. I don't know if they did that at all,” said Lynn.
According to Vorhees, the Lake Nona project began with a UCF study and from there members of the CFVMPF visited memorials in several counties to come up with a potential list.
The group then used guidelines established by the Department of Defense set out for each conflict era to determine which names would ultimately end up at the memorial.
Voorhees said they anticipated the need to add and amend to the memorial, which is part of the reason they set up the endowment.
“They are still adding names to the Vietnam wall, as you know. And our plan is every November on Veteran's day we're going to add names that we have not included,” he said.
He did not have a specific reason why some names, like that of Bush did not end up among more than 1,100 names etched into the stone panels.
However, their research could account for a handful of other discrepancies, like the name Emmet Clonts, which appears on the Orange County Memorial. In Lake Nona, he is on their wall as "John E. Clonts Jr."
Voorhees said he may have gone by the name Emmett, but they chose to use the full names that were listed on death certificates and grave sites.
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs’s office and county staff have been notified of the misspelled and mixed-up names that appear on the Orange County memorial. At this time, no one has indicated if there are plans to amend that memorial.