- Associated Press - Sunday, June 7, 2015

ELKHART, Ind. (AP) - A proposal to rename an Elkhart post office for an Army soldier who was killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan in 2013 is raising questions about how the city honors its war dead.

U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski is sponsoring legislation that would rename the downtown post office for Army Staff Sgt. Jesse Williams, who was one of six soldiers killed when their Black Hawk helicopter went down on Dec. 17, 2013.

Walorski’s proposal has drawn support from Indiana’s entire congressional delegation and has been lauded by many in the community, but others have questioned why Williams is being singled out when the area has lost other soldiers too.

“I think it’s wonderful we honor Jesse Williams,” said Melinda Wilkey, whose husband, Army Spc. David Wilkey, was killed in Baghdad in 2007 when an explosive device detonated.

But she objected to singling out one soldier over another.

“What made (Williams’) sacrifice any greater than my husband’s back in 2007 (Father’s Day) or any of the other soldiers?” she wrote in an email to The Elkhart Truth (https://bit.ly/1EYe0ed ). “To pick and choose is wrong!”

Wilkey said she approached city officials after her husband’s death about some sort of memorial for him but was told that “the city didn’t do these things” because it didn’t want to appear to be favoring one fallen soldier over another.

Walorski, a Republican who took office in 2013, said her legislation is “commemorating all fallen soldiers and honoring a local hero.” Williams is the only Elkhart-area soldier to have died in Iraq or Afghanistan since Walorski took office.

A 2009 study by the Congressional Research Service found that more than 20 percent of laws passed by Congress from 2005 through 2008 were bills to name post offices. Many were named for soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, the report found.

A post office in Louisville, Kentucky, was named the Iraq and Afghanistan Fallen Military Heroes of Louisville Memorial Post Office Building to recognize all local soldiers who had died in the line of duty.

Wilkey said Elkhart should create a public memorial to honor all fallen military men and women that complements the private Wall of Heroes memorial that already exists in the city. Elkhart Memorial High School also has a Wall of Heroes, which was unveiled April 30, that identifies former students who have served in the military.

“Our soldiers, their families and families like mine need this country to pull together and support them like we should.” Wilkey said.


Information from: The Elkhart Truth, https://www.elkharttruth.com



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