I challenge you, Williston

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By Carolyn Ten Broeck, Editor

My first intention was to write an editorial – an opinion from the newspaper's standpoint. I then realized the topic is too personal and I couldn't do it justice in a newspaper editorial.

That's when I decided to make it my opinion – just mine – that of Carolyn Ten Broeck.

It's not one of my typical "Slice of Life" pieces about my rather atypical life.

This is cut and dried and to the point. And it's personal. Deeply personal.

This fundraising for the veterans' memorial has gone on long enough. That's right. Too long.

Three years ago this month, Ken Schwiebert approached me about doing something in the newspaper to raise funds for a memorial. At that time $20,000 seemed adequate. It wasn't and it isn't.

In two years, only $7,000 came in. In the past six months, add about $48,000. And yet sadly, it still isn't enough.

While $55,000 would have covered a monument, there are still preliminary expenses that weren't factored in back in 2014. Add $18,000 for bricks, $8,000 for lighting, $5,000 for flagpoles and flags and about $30,000 for concrete work and you've soon spent $61,000 – more than you've taken in.

Granted the city of Williston/CRA will bear some of that site expense, but still there's not enough to purchase the monument and bronze emblems that go on it.

We need more money and we need it now. Not in January. Not in May. Today.

The very first event I covered as an editor in Levy County was Williston's Veterans Day service in the park. It made an impression on me that today 12 years later, it remains one of my favorite things.

Saturday, it all came back again as I watched the parade and attended the ceremony in Heritage Park.

These men and women each wrote a blank check made payable to the United States of America when they signed up to serve in the military. At any time that check could be cashed, and sometimes it was only payable with their lives.

As I knelt beside the Rich brothers, featured on this week's front page and spoke with younger brother, Sarge, who at 96 remembered WWII as if it were yesterday, I couldn't help but cry and repeat over and over to him, "Thank you. Thank you for your service."

Vernon Denmark, 94, came into the office to buy himself a brick and as I filled out his paperwork, he told me about serving on Okinawa. I'd just seen "Hacksaw Ridge" two weeks before and I cried for the lost lives, the lost youth and for boys who never got to see their mothers' faces again.

Our own Charles Goodman lived for 21 months in a tank in the jungles of Vietnam, fighting an unpopular war because it's what his country asked him to do.

Charles came home from Vietnam, but you can see the horror in his eyes and hear his voice quake any time you speak with him about his service and he is transported back 50 years.

We owe these people more than a memorial. We owe these people our way of life. We owe them a debt we cannot repay.

So when I say fundraising has gone on long enough, I mean it.

I know these are tough economic times. I know the holidays are upon us. I know your most pressing thoughts may be "How will I pay the rent?" "How will I put food on the table?" "How will I clothe my children?"

I get it. I know money is tight.

But I also know that for the vast majority of us, we waste money every single month on something we just can't live without.

Maybe it's the new smart phone. Maybe it's Netflix. Maybe it's a Coke or pack of cigarettes.

And that's where my challenge comes in.

There are more than 2,700 people in Williston. There are thousands more in the surrounding area.

I challenge everyone who reads this to donate $5 to the Veterans Memorial Fund before Dec. 31.

I challenge you to share this column with your family and friends who do not read the paper.

I challenge you to give up some luxury, if necessary, to make that donation.

If we can spread this challenge the way we once did chain letters, it could reach as many as 5,000 people by the end of next week – since it is Thanksgiving.

As you bow to give thanks next Thursday, don't forget the American veteran who put his life on the line so you could spend the day with your family.

And then pass the bread basket for their donations.

Checks may be made payable to Veterans Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 369, Williston, FL 32696.

Got cash? The office is located at 607 SW 1st. Ave., Williston and is open from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. daily. There's even a mail slot in the door if you miss me.