HUNTINGTON — The city of Huntington has collected preliminary information to begin an investigation into management and protocol involving the fire department's trucks and equipment and has even picked some one to conduct the investigation, but officials aren't saying who it is.
In February, Mayor Steve Williams said there would be an independent investigation into the department after two ladder trucks broke down, raising concerns for the safety of firefighters and the public. A fire rescue boat has also been inoperable since May 2018,12 months after it was inspected for possible repairs.
Williams said he was seeking to hire someone independent of the city to perform the investigation, which would examine and make recommendations on any deficiencies of current practices. The practices may relate to policies, forms, record keeping/reporting, training, job duties and communications, among other things.
The person or agency who will perform the investigation has been chosen, but cannot be revealed yet, City Communications Director Bryan Chambers said Monday.
"The party conducting the investigation is securing clearance to publicly disclose their participation in the investigation and to make comments " he said.
The investigation, once completed, will come after a re-certification process by the West Virginia State Fire Marshal's Office.
The Huntington Fire Department had been placed on a 180-day probation period beginning in January after fire marshal inspectors found five deficiencies requiring correction.
Fire marshal commissioners allowed Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader to correct those deficiencies and make a presentation during the Fire Commission's April 25 meeting. Fire commissioners agreed to re-certify the department after finding Rader corrected the deficiencies within a 90-day time frame.
"I want to (thank) you all for all your hard work. It really has helped me in moving forward with managing my department," Rader told fire commissioners. "We were pleased to be able to correct those deficiencies in 90 days versus the (180 days)."
Among the deficiencies corrected in the fire marshal's report was the need for a required aerial apparatus inspection and the need for required self-contained breathing apparatus testing. The report also noted fire engine 2, engine 5, engine 10 and fire tower 2 needed required motor vehicle inspections.
Rader's correction of those deficiencies followed a March budget hearing before Huntington City Council in which she took responsibility for any problems associated with the fire department's fleet and equipment.
"I take full responsibility as the chief for any issues we have had on the fleet, but I can reassure you we have taken steps already to fix those problems with the fleet," Rader told council members.
In early January, one of the department's ladder trucks broke down because of reported electrical issues. On Feb. 7, a second ladder truck broke down before a maintenance crew determined it was 14 quarts low on oil, causing its engine to lock up. This left the city without ladder trucks, having to rely on mutual aid agreements with volunteer fire departments in Cabell and Wayne counties.
The fire department's water rescue boat, Marine Co. 1, has been out of service since May 2018, when a pump failure caused it to take on water. Equipment on the boat also was damaged during a vehicle transport.
Lake Assault Boats of Minnesota, the company that built Marine Co. 1, sent a representative to examine the boat and take a report on what it would take to repair it. It's unclear if the city has received cost repair estimates.
Meanwhile, the fire department pulled out of storage a separate boat, River-1, which is a Carolina Skiff that hasn't been used in 24 or 25 years.
Rader said since problems began with the department's vehicles and equipment. Assistant Fire Chief Ray Canafax was assigned to oversee the department's fleet management program. Canafax will develop an apparatus replacement cycle to help with fleet management, she said.
The department is also partnering with the city's Public Works Department to ensure the fleet is being routinely inspected and repaired.
Travis Crum is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. He may be reached by phone at 304-526-2801.
SAINT-LAURENT-SUR-MER, France — Anyone who lives long enough knows that children soak up memories that can stay with them forever. A hardy bunch of 90-somethings are counting on it.
A group of French students joined 15 World War II veterans from the United States who returned this week to the beach U.S. troops stormed on D-Day and an emotional ceremony at the Normandy American Cemetery that overlooks it.
With fewer men left to share war stories, a focus of commemorations for the 75th anniversary of D-Day has been keeping their memories from June 1944 alive by passing them on to the youngest generation.
One of the French children who heard firsthand accounts of D-Day, 10-year-old Martin Deshayes, marveled at the thousands and thousands of troops who landed on beaches when Nazi Germany occupied his country.
"There are so many who have died for us, to rescue us," Martin said. "If they hadn't landed at that time, maybe we would be Germans now or we wouldn't exist."
The faces of the American veterans and the French youngsters conveyed emotion as they posed for a group photo on Omaha Beach.
Groups of American high school students visited another significant D-Day site a few kilometers away on Wednesday, where U.S. Army Rangers captured the Pointe-du-Hoc after scaling high cliffs.
"We lost hundreds of our men trying to take this particular spot," said Brian Goodbrake, a history teacher who traveled from Nebraska with 48 students.
Standing there provides an understanding of the scope of the fighting in Normandy that can't be communicated any other way, Goodbrake said.
"I've studied this for 20 years. World War II is one of my areas of specialty," he said. "I don't think I understood it until I was here the first time, stepping in the bomb craters, going into the German command center. I got it, finally," he said.
One of the Nebraska students, Maximillian Pearson, 18, shared his teachers' astonishment and respect.
"It's absolute awe, because I turned a corner and just all of a sudden you see all these crater sites from all the bombs, and you just see all these vets all over the place," Pearson said.
Several thousands of students from the United States and Canada are touring Normandy and attending D-Day commemorations. Some will get to ask a panel of veterans questions at Utah Beach later in the week.
Erin McGrew, 18, from Colorado, imagined what Allied troops her age and even younger experienced, their fears and exhaustion.
"It's different to see it in person and see where it actually happened. I think it makes it more real," she said.
Some students were so moved they could hardly speak.
In the city of Caen, which was destroyed by bombing after the D-Day landings, the local memorial museum was full of children as the anniversary approached. Some 110,000 students visit each year.
To help children better understand the war, the Caen Memorial Museum immerses them in re-created scenes and lets them touch objects from daily life. The aim is to evoke historic context without showing them horrifying images.
While the museum once organized events featuring veterans and other bombing survivors, it also anticipated the need for capturing what they lived through in a way that would ensure, such as video recordings.
"Still, witnesses are irreplaceable," said Isabelle Bournier, the museum's cultural and pedagogical director.
She described the fascination of a group of children who recently happened to see a veteran at the museum.
"We see them on the beaches. We see them in the museum. They're here, and won't be anymore," Bournier said.
HUNTINGTON — With the 75th anniversary of D-Day today, many people will pause to honor veterans and remember the sacrifice of the more than 4,000 Allied troops who gave their lives for the cause of freedom.
The Highlands Museum & Discovery Center in Ashland will have an event to commemorate the anniversary of D-Day, with a short movie, a display of World War II artifacts and local guest speaker Robert "Bob" Long. The event is free for veterans and will run from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Long, a veteran with 29 years of service, said his speech will consist of background information on D-Day as well as what went into the actual invasion itself, including advantages and disadvantages of the different locations.
"I think it's kind of important to learn the history of this event. I don't think it's really emphasized anymore, so this might be their only chance to learn about it," Long said.
"If you don't honor the veterans that have fought to keep you free, then the future generations won't bother fighting to keep you free," Long added.
Dwayne Rider, public affairs officer for the Hershel "Woody" Williams Veterans Administration Medical Center, said people there recite the Pledge of Allegiance each morning, but on the anniversary of D-Day a special reading will take place before the pledge.
Rider shared his thoughts about the World War II veterans.
"Daily, we are in awe of what our veterans did during their service," Rider wrote in an email. "There's no way that we can comprehend what they experienced while attacking the beaches of Normandy 75 years ago. Being shot at while parachuting in or waiting for the front gate of their Higgins boat to lower so they could storm the beach while bullets ricocheted off the craft is incomprehensible."
In the Mountain State, residents give thanks for the 218,665 West Virginians who served during World War II, including 38 who died on D-Day. Among these men and women was Huntington native Carwood Lipton, who fought on D-Day and beyond and whose story inspired part of the television miniseries "Band of Brothers."
"First Lt. Carwood Lipton was an ordinary man from Huntington, West Virginia, who did extraordinary things," said then-U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., during a street renaming dedication ceremony for Lipton last year. "He answered his nation's call
and served his country in an extraordinary manner, and that is such a testament for so many West Virginians. Too often recognition of our veterans comes way too late, so today we honor one of our heroes."
Along with Lipton, West Virginia is the home of Hershel Woodrow "Woody" Williams, who earned the Medal of Honor for his heroism at Iwo Jima; pilot Charles "Chuck" Yeager; and George "Spanky" Roberts, the Army Air Corps' first African-American cadet.
According to wvencyclopedia.org, "West Virginia reported the fifth-highest percentage of servicemen during the war, with 218,665 West Virginians, including 66,716 volunteers, serving in the armed forces. Of the 11,000 African-Americans representing the state, 600 came from West Virginia State College (now University). A total of 5,830 West Virginians were killed in World War II."
Following D-Day, nurse Delores Dowling, of South Point, Ohio, and later a resident of Cabell County, was one of the first to land in Sicily. Another impressive female figure was Ruby Bradley, a Nurse Corps administrator in the Philippines who was nicknamed "Angel in Fatigues" while she was a prisoner of war.
According to wvencyclopedia.org: "After assisting in more than 230 major operations and the delivery of 13 American babies, Bradley received two Bronze Stars. The Roane County native later received numerous medals, ribbons and citations as a combat nurse in the Korean conflict. Col. Bradley is the state's most decorated female veteran."
Though originally from rural New York but an eventual settler in the area, Bertha "Buddie" Curnutte served during World War II as a Rosie the Riveter before going to the Coast Guard and becoming a medic.
Curnutte recently told The Herald-Dispatch people offer her their respects immediately when they find out she served in World War II. She thinks back about the anxiety of the war and the feeling of relief when it was finally over following the D-Day invasion.
WEST VIRGINIA SERVICE MEMBERS WHO DIED ON D-DAY
More than 4,000 Allied forces died while storming the beaches of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944. That number includes these 38 West Virginians, listed with their home counties, who served in different capacities during the war and paid the ultimate sacrifice 75 years ago. They are:
Winston Lodge Alexander, McDowell County
James O. Boggess, Kanawha County
David E. Casto, Nicholas County
Donald G. Colangelo, Mingo County
Darius W. Crites, Upshur County
Joe DiCiuccio, Raleigh County
Jasper N. Elswick, Roane County
Curtis C. Feathers, Preston County
Jesse M. Hawkins, no home county identified
Elsworth M. Heck, Cabell County
Martin V. Hughes, Kanawha County
Edward L. Jones, Wood County
Alva Jackson Night, Braxton County
Eston C. Kuhn, Barbour County
James D. Lake, Braxton County
Bernard H. Lipscomb, Doddridge County
John Manfredi, Barbour County
Charles H. Manning, Hancock County
Conrad Cecil Mason, Ohio County
John Hobert Mathews, Pocahontas County
Charles G. McCalvin, Logan County
Jamie Edgar McComb, Pocahontas County
John Burk McCue, Monongalia County
Vernon C. McDaniel, Berkeley County
Norman G. Miller, Harrison County
William L. Mollohan Jr., Kanawha County
Louis F. Nesci, Mineral County
Shirley J. Phillips, Randolph County
John Henry Shreves, Harrison County
William H. Smith, Raleigh County
Floyd Spiker, Preston County
Max L. Stemple, Preston County
Robert Charles Stonebraker, Harrison County
Raymond L. Winebrener, Mason County
Benjamin F. Winn, McDowell County
Benjamin H. Wirtz, Mercer County
Robert L.Wolverton, Randolph County
Source: Veterans Memorial Database, West Virginia Archives and History
"Sometimes people don't seem to understand where jobs come from and where prosperity comes from," said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao during her keynote address at the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce's 128th Annual Dinner on Wednesday, telling those gathered how important they are to their community, their state and the nation.