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No military equipment for Hartselle's Purple Heart Memorial, U.S. Army says

By Deangelo McDaniel 340-2469

HARTSELLE — Sorry, Hartselle.

There is no Vietnam-era helicopter available for a memorial at Sparkman Park, despite what you have been told.

U.S. Army spokeswoman Shirley Walton-Bell said the
military does not have any surplus equipment to donate to the city.

Her letter to Hartselle came almost three months after members of the Military Order of Purple Heart told city leaders they had located a piece of equipment.

"We don't anticipate having equipment available in the near future," Bell wrote to Mayor Dwight Tankersley.

In March, Purple Heart organization members George Mann and James Shaffran told the council they had a helicopter for the park.

"I know where it is, and it's set aside for us," Mann said in March about the helicopter. "The question is, do you want the helicopter? It's as simple as that."

In response to Mann, a unanimous council approved allowing the helicopter in the park, as long as the group built a fence around the equipment to keep children away.

"The city's insurance carrier required the fence," Tankersley explained.

The previous administration let the Purple Heart organization construct a Purple Heart Memorial in the park near Hayes and Adam streets.

The memorial has the names of about 300 men from the Tennessee Valley who have received Purple Hearts dating to the Civil War.

Since then, the group has constructed a pavilion.

Bell said Hartselle's request for the helicopter will remain on file until May 30, 2008.

"If we receive any equipment within that year, we will notify you," she said.

Mann's organization has agreed to absorb the cost of relocating any equipment that becomes available.

The U.S. Army requires someone to pay for demilitarization of the equipment, which will cost between $225 and $6,000.

The government also
requires that a commercial carrier move the equipment to Hartselle and that it be maintained.

City Attorney Larry Madison warned the council in March that previous gifts to two other municipalities have been "maintenance nightmares."

When CSX stopped pulling cabooses, the railroad donated them to towns. Falkville and Trinity, municipalities that Madison represents, each received one of the cabooses. Madison said there have been "maintenance issues."

The city said it will not be responsible for maintaining the equipment.

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