Harold Stalnaker Comes Home ....

(05/16/2004)

Dear Bob and Dianne,

Thank you for carrying the story about my Uncle Harold as told by Karin Fischer of the Daily Mail. I believe that she captured the essence of the story of a young man from the hills of WV that just wanted to return home. It was, and is, about honor, country and love.

My great great grandfather Stalnaker had our family home in Mt. Zion. I have only just received a photo of him outside this home while I was at the services for my Uncle at Arlington National Cemetery. I was honored to receive the flag that draped his coffin and was humbled to receive this from the Army Chaplain which was, as he stated..."from a grateful nation."

The services were conducted at the Ft. Myers Chapel and his horsedrawn caisson was preceeded by the marching band, members of the twenty-one gun salute staff, and the colors. These proceedings were exactly what President Kennedy was given, with the exception of "Ruffles and Flourishes." The flyover by the 4 A-10s out of Pope AFB required the halting of flights into Reagan (DCA) for 4 minutes. The playing of Taps was moving to say the least.

Your paper is the only domestic paper to carry the story of our local hero without me personally contacting them. The Pentagon Public Affairs office seems much more intent on dispatching "sensational" stories that focus on political events than honoring those that, through their sacrifices, allow them the very freedom to send these very dispatches.

The Pentagon didn't see fit to make this story available to the national press, despite their promises to do so. The international press in Luxembourg has given much more coverage to Uncle Harold than the domestic press and interestingly, not a single public servant (nor their representatives) from West Virginia attended the services...even though I personally invited many.

Senator Rockefeller's staff did contact me to offer to "squeeze" me in for a meeting with him but, as I get older I don't "squeeze" so well so I opted to keep my family meetings and itinerary instead of visiting with him. Perhaps another time.

I am very grateful that you have seen fit to publicize the return of Uncle Harold and honor him with your attention. Much of Uncle Harold remains in that pasture in Luxembourg where he perished in his plane, "Miss Emel" (named after his fiance from Spencer, Emelene Waldeck. I believe it is fitting that the he has become so much of a hero to the international press but unknown domestically outside of the hills of West Virginia.

Please feel free to visit his website and use any of the documents/photos there as your wish, www.cstalnaker.com. Please look for the WV Public Television special on May 27th that will carry footage of the services.

Thanks again for your kind publication of our West Virginia family hero with the Mt. Zion origins. We live in a wonderful country thanks to the young men and women that go "in harms way," and a special thanks to those West Virginians that serve and make us proud.

Sincerely,

Charlie Stalnaker
P.O. Box 200
Snowshoe, WV 26209
cstalnakr@aol.com