Category Archives: Monument Meaning

What the Monument Means to Me: Naomi Ling

“As a student who has actively campaigned to uplift Veterans’ stories in Howard County since 2018, I am delighted to support this monument being built. It symbolizes remembrance and honor of Veterans from all military branches, as well as their families’ contributions in this beloved community. For those who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, citizens of Howard County will gather around this monument and give thanks, each and every day. Students especially will learn about the significance of Veterans’ heroic actions through this important campaign.

“My work with the Veterans community is intertwined with my passion for mental health advocacy. Growing up in a competitive school environment, I can’t remember the age I started to worry about college. I can’t remember exactly when I began comparing test scores, checking and rechecking my GPA, or being weighed down by the sheer workload. Looking back, I realize most of the pressure did not come from my parents, teachers, or friends—but from me.

“Then, the day after major college decisions in 2018, I heard the news: a beloved senior at our school had tragically taken his life. As unexpected as it was, his suicide was not the first one to happen in our community, but I knew I must take action to make it the last.

“Our insufficient societal response to mental health plagues me. Every day, teens are expected to carry the burden of excellence in a variety of environments such as school and extracurriculars, leading to feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress that are never truly addressed in educational institutions. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted in-person social connections and crucial support systems, further exacerbating the issue. Even when we do discuss mental health, it’s often glossed over as a stigma, an abnormality that manifests as a loud and clear crisis. This blatantly ignores the silent symptoms, including withdrawing from social situations or loved ones.

“Where do Veterans come into this picture? Far too often we don’t see or acknowledge their efforts to preserve our country. It is clear that Veterans embody values that all of us strive for: courage, perseverance and a drive to succeed. As unsung heroes, countless Veterans struggle and have struggled with mental health, years after their acts of service. Countless Veterans don’t receive the resources, counselors or financial reimbursement they need to get back on their feet. Yet they still try, every day, to get up.

“The symbiotic relationship between us students and honored Veterans is a beautiful one—it keeps giving and giving back. Veterans adore being surrounded by youthful spirit, while students take away many messages of courage and resilience by hearing wartime experiences. Especially for that one teenager who may feel adrift in a raging storm of responsibilities, there is hope to be found in hearing words of wisdom, both on and off the battlefield, from a Veteran.”

Written by Naomi Ling, founder of Students Partner with Veterans

Want to share what the monument means to you? Click here to tell your story! Want to help us finish the mission? Click here to make a donation to the monument campaign.

What the Monument Means to Me: J. Edward Hamel

“The Howard County Veterans and Military Families Monument is important to me and should be for all Americans to honor our Veterans. I am an Army Veteran, 82nd Airborne, and I have two brothers and a son who also served. The Korean War had just ended when I graduated from high school. I joined the Army in 1953 and began my 16 weeks of Basic Training at Fort Dix. In the spring, I transferred to Fort Bragg. It was during Basic Training that I was recruited to go airborne. I’ll never forget the presentation. After explaining the value of going airborne and what it meant to the country, I signed up.

“I turned 90 recently, so I’ve seen Vietnam and Korea, and I even remember World War II. Many family members served. I had an uncle who was 45 when he was drafted into World War II. He had a business, so he had not been drafted previously. He had about a month of training, and then they sent him to France. Within two weeks, he was wounded and back home. Another uncle was in the Navy, and a third was in the Army.

“The Armed Services are essential and important to me. We send young men and women to the most dangerous places in the world. They need to be honored. From the moment I saw the monument design, I knew how significant it would be for the Veterans. I am excited to see it happen in Howard County and proud to support it.”

Written by J. Edward Hamel, Army Veteran and Chairman of Hamel Builders

Want to share what the monument means to you? Click here to tell your story! Want to help us finish the mission? Click here to make a donation to the monument campaign.

What the Monument Means to Me: Roger Chang

“We helped to keep the Cold War cold at its peak by answering the President of the United States’ Key Intelligence Question in 1973 regarding Soviet multiple (MIRV) nuclear warhead capability on long range missiles. The answer was yes. Forty years later, this mission was officially declassified, and the story could be shared. The answer directly influenced the SALT II negotiations under Secretary of State Kissinger to mutually limit thermonuclear weapons delivery and MIRVs.

Using only long-range missiles across continents, up to 7,500 thermonuclear warheads could be accurately delivered in roughly seventeen minutes. This peak capability was unstoppable and roughly 7,500,000 times as powerful as the first Hiroshima atomic bomb. SALT II mutually reduced that capability.

My wife of four years and my one-year-old son would be impacted by my absence and our separation while I served on a remote Aleutian Island directly under falling Soviet test warheads.

I received a medal signed by the director of the National Security Agency for this effort, but the true reward is being able to enjoy breathing the fresh air and feeling the warmth of the sun without suffering from fallout radiation and a nuclear winter blocking sunlight a half century later. Perhaps the sacrifice of my time and my family at the age of twenty-seven helped to keep the Cold War cold.

The monument reminds me of my wife, who succumbed to cancer, and my estranged one-year old son, who probably could not understand my absence because I would return a stranger. They could not be told the importance of such a mission in 1973.”

Written by Roger Chang, U.S. Army Veteran

Want to share what the monument means to you? Click here to tell your story! Want to help us finish the mission? Click here to make a donation to the monument campaign.

What the Monument Means to Me: Penny Flecker, Gold Star Mother

“This monument will be a special gathering place. I can imagine sitting on the benches around the monument with my grandchildren, people talking to each other and connecting. It’s nice for someone to say, ‘tell me about your loved one.’ It’s meaningful for others to know a family, who lost someone, who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. This continues to increase the respect and kindness which is already a part of our community.” 

Written by Penny Flecker

In Memory of 1LT Norman T. Flecker (pictured left)
United States Army Aviation

Died June 30, 1998, in a weather-related helicopter crash in the Republic of South Korea

Want to share what the monument means to you? Click here to tell your story! Want to help us finish the mission? Click here to make a donation to the monument campaign.

What the Monument Means to Me: George Delaney

“The Howard County Veterans and Military Families Monument is important to me both personally, and in my roles of Vice Commander of the American Legion Post 300 in Columbia and District 4 Adjutant for 16 Posts in the greater Baltimore area. My patriotism and love of country began with my father, George Daniel Delaney who was a Gunner’s Mate Second Class on the USS Teton, Amphibious Command and Control Ship, AGC-14, the lead command vessel at the Battle of Okinawa. He also served during the Philippine Island Campaign.

The photo on the left was taken in the Philippines a short time after Okinawa. My father told me about the battle. Once the invasion began, my dad was assigned to a gun tub and was responsible for repairing or unjamming any of the anti-aircraft guns on the ship. He was at his post 24/7 for 22 days and nights, with only time away to make a head call. His ship endured 122 kamikaze attacks for three weeks. All cooks were assigned to battle stations except one who made bologna and liverwurst sandwiches with one slice of meat, three times a day. No hot food could be prepared.

His ship knocked down several planes and sustained shrapnel rain frequently. They only got a few hours’ sleep on the steel decking in the gun tub in between raids. He said it was a miracle their ship survived. His ship was the second ship to tie up at Tokyo harbor for the signing of the peace on the USS Missouri due to all the too brass on the Teton.

My dad was proud of his service and thankful to Almighty God that he was spared. I am here because he was. He was a great father, and he and my mother lived to see me follow in his footsteps in the Navy and later to be called to serve in NSA. They were proud of me as was I of them.

While my father has passed to his eternal reward, his guidance and heroism inspires me every day to serve Veterans, their families, active military and the Howard County Community. I will enjoy having a special place to reflect upon my father’s sacrifice and defending liberty. He gave me a sense of purpose and wisdom to succeed in life, and to never forget the price paid for liberty. I look forward to bringing my family for some quiet reflection on what my father gave to us and why we should never forget the cost of freedom.

Having such a memorial in Howard County is an amazing vision and will be visited by Veterans and families from throughout the region. I have shared photos of the Monument in my visits to other American Legion Posts in the Baltimore District (4) and hundreds of Veterans were amazed that such a tribute is being planned in our area. Like me, they would love to make a day trip to Columbia to show their children and grandchildren this monument. It will be used to teach the next generation of what Veterans and their families have done to give us this gift called America.

In my Legion capacity, I and other leaders directly serve 300 Veterans and families living in the greater Columbia. area. I call many of them in what we call “Buddy Checks.” I never know what to expect when they answer the phone; they may want to share a recent outing with their grandchildren to the local playground, or they may want to talk about the darkest thoughts of pain and mental duress resulting from post-traumatic stress disorder in combat.

In all these calls, one thing rings clear: Veterans desperately need to be thanked, listened to and consoled when needed. Once we have the monument built, we will encourage some lonely and depressed Veterans to accompany us to visit the monument to finally “Welcome them Home” in a solemn, local place that celebrates and honors their service and that of their families. It will put a face on the meaning of service and patriotism and communicate a powerful message of appreciation for a job well done, sometimes forgotten, but now remembered for all eternity. This will help to reunite these often lonely Veterans with their generations and give a suitable place to tell their story to their loved ones.

The concept, design and completion of the Monument will represent a Vision of Love. It will make Columbia a regional focal point for peace and reconciliation. It will help to erase the mistakes of the past and breathe new life for those who have given so much, both Veterans and Families. Thank you.”

Written by George Delaney, U.S. Navy Veteran

Want to share what the monument means to you? Click here to tell your story! Want to help us finish the mission? Click here to make a donation to the monument campaign.