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Board to Preserve Military Heritage becomes nonprofit

The Board to Preserve Military Heritage, commonly known for its members who work to get roads and bridges named after fallen military servicemen, will be seen under a new light just in time for Veterans Day now that the board has been declared a nonprofit organization.

Former Benham Mayor John Dodd expressed a great deal of gratitude toward the Harlan County Fiscal Court and others for their support during the Tri-City Chamber of Commerce award ceremony on Thursday night, saying the board members’ work wouldn’t have been possible without them.

Dodd, who is also a retired army veteran, received the chamber’s Presidents Award during the ceremony for his years of service. While accepting the award, Dodd noted the “hard work” put in by his board and Harlan County Judge-Executive Dan Mosley with the fiscal court.

“I’ve accomplished a few things in my life and I do thank you, but I’m not through. We’ve still got a lot of roads and bridges,” Dodd said. “We’ve lost over 230 killed in World War I, over 50 killed in the county in Korea, we had 40 something from Vietnam and we had one from Iraq and one from Afghanistan.”

Dodd said he works every night on a database of fallen soldiers from the region, whose name he could honor by dedicating a bridge or road to them.

“I got me a group together over here and named it the Board to Preserve Military Heritage in Harlan County. We’ve accomplished a lot,” Dodd said, noting his team is only seven bridges short in Harlan to be named after someone killed in action.

Dodd said his committee reviews names that are sent to them to be considered for a bridge or road dedication, which are normally those killed in the line of duty. He added that is one of the things they look at most because of the vast number of people who have served but the limited number of roads and bridges they can actually name.

“We try to do things that will truly honor our veterans,” he said. “When we name one of these bridges, it’s like bringing someone back to life because you drive by that bridge and you see their name and stuff on the side of the road. We try to get that bridge or road name as close as we possibly can to where that person grew up at or where they’re from.”

Dodd said it takes “a lot of work” to be able to research where the veterans lived before serving their country, and more often than not, he would have to talk to community members to see exactly where the person lived.

“These roads and bridges, to me, are very important,” Dodd said. “With the election and everything going on, we’ve not been able to name any in four months or so, but I’ve talked to Dan tonight and we’ll probably name three at the next fiscal court meeting.

“When we name them, we write them up and they go to Manchester to the regional highway office and then to the main transportation office in Frankfort so they can mark them on the state map. Then, they come back to Manchester and they call me asking where I want the signs, so I have to give them mile marker and where they go.”

Dodd added when the signs are placed, they are often wrapped in black plastic until being unveiled. He said Harlan Circuit Judge Kent Hendrickson is normally the person to unwrap the signs and present them as a bridge dedication.

“Wherever we have bridges open is really where we go,” Dodd said. “Then, we open our database and try to see if anyone we have listed lived nearby.”

Dodd said his nonprofit is now accepting donations for the bridge dedications and other services, adding the donations can be claimed on the donors’ taxes. Anyone wishing to send donations can send them to Dodd at P.O. Box 355, Benham, KY 40807.

For more information regarding the Board to Preserve Military Heritage, call Dodd at 606-848-0442.