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WILLIAM TELLS: Odessa’s heroes due equal honors - Odessa American: Billsalter

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WILLIAM TELLS: Odessa’s heroes due equal honors

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Bill Salter (Poor William) was Publisher of the Odessa American from late 1994, until June 2003 when he was named publisher emeritus. His column, "William Tells," was published from 1962 to 2008, including the final 14 years in the OA.

Posted: Sunday, February 24, 2008 12:00 am

MANY PEOPLE IN ODESSA’S past and present could be called “heroes.” Two men, however, undoubtedly are at the upper part of any listing of such people.

They are Alfred “Mac” Wilson and Marvin “Rex” Young. Both died in the service of their country in Vietnam and posthumously received the nation’s highest award for valor, the Medal of Honor.

Poor William read citations detailing the bravery of these two heroes at www.history.army.mil/moh.html. They are listed among 245 Medal of Honor recipients from the Vietnam War.

Young, 21, was killed in 1968; Wilson, 20, in 1969. Both young men sacrificed their lives to save the lives of their comrades. As John 15:13 reads in the New Testament, “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

A November 1999 Odessa American story reminded PW that both Young and Wilson were outstanding. It says they were “unassuming high school youths who had a friendly or humorous word for everyone they met.”

PW wishes he could have known them. But at about the time they were killed, PW (at age 25) was flunking his Army pre-induction physical in San Antonio.

In other words, PW did not have to serve in the military in either a time of war or peace. This, no doubt, is a primary reason he so strongly believes that those who do serve at daily threat of losing their lives should always be remembered and honored in every way possible.

IN THIS RESPECT, there is no doubt that the naming of the North Odessa U.S. Post Office in honor of Sgt. Young is appropriate. This was accomplished through the efforts of U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway, who knew Young because he graduated from Permian High School the year before the now congressman.

However, it seems to PW that an equal honor should be accorded Pfc. Wilson, an Odessa High School graduate. So, an e-mail was sent to Conaway asking about this.

A member of Conaway’s staff responded with a phone call saying her boss agreed that equal treatment would be appropriate, but there was a problem with the “availability of post offices.” She said a post office MUST be owned by the USPS before it could be named in honor of someone through congressional resolution.

It seems strange, but the downtown Odessa post office is a “leased” facility, a surprise to Poor William. That made PW wonder why the one available facility in Odessa owned by the USPS was not named in honor of both local Medal of Honor winners.

PW didn’t get an answer to that one. However, according to information cited to PW by a high-ranking postal official, there really is no reason a leased facility could not be named in someone’s honor and some post offices have been named in honor of two people.

This information is in a report (“Naming Post Offices Through Legislation,” Order Code RS21562, July 3, 2003) by the Congressional Research Service using Library of Congress records. The records show that “Congress first recognized an individual by naming a post office through freestanding legislation in his honor in 1967, when P.L. 90-232 named a combined post office and federal office building in Bronx, NY, as the Charles A. Buckley Post Office and Federal Office Building.”

Also, “Postal naming acts were relatively infrequent until recently, averaging 10 per Congress for the 102nd through the 105th Congresses. In the 106th Congress, and again in the 107th Congress, the number rose to 46. Retired Members of Congress — most still living — were honored in 15 of the acts of the 107th Congress. While most of the others appear to be people of local renown, some of the nationally known figures honored in recent years include Ronald Reagan (twice), Cesar Chavez, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Todd Beamer, Rev. Leon Sullivan, Walt Disney, and Jay Hanna Dean (better known as ‘Dizzy’).”

MOST IMPORTANTLY, THE REPORT says:

“Once a post office has been selected, several key pieces of information are needed for drafting the legislation. One is the precise address of the facility. Another is whether the facility is owned by USPS or (more commonly for smaller post offices) leased from a private owner. In the latter case, the building’s owner should probably be consulted.”

This doesn’t sound as if a facility actually has to be OWNED by the USPS, as PW was told by the Conaway aide. It doesn’t even say that the holder of the downtown lease (a man in California, in this case) has to approve, but then why wouldn’t he?

So, to say the least, PW (and some other folks he has talked with) would like to see both Odessa post offices named for these Medal of Honor recipients. PW would love to know how others feel about this; letters, e-mails and calls are always welcomed.

HAVE A SUPER SUNDAY and a wonderful week!

Odessa, TX

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