Blair shares Naval experience and Freedom Rock update

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Stan Blair is pictured upon graduation from Aviation Storekeepers School in Millington, Tenn. (Photo submitted)

By Caroline Rosacker

Guttenberg resident and retired Iowa Department of Natural Resource Conservation Officer Stan Blair is a 36-year member of the American Legion and a lifetime member of the AMVETS. He was drafted in the Army, then enlisted in the Navy and served during the Vietnam War. 

Naval experience

Blair told The Press, "I served my country from January 1967 to October 1970. I received my basic training in San Diego, Calif., at the Naval Training Center, and went to Aviation Storekeeper school at the Naval Technical Training Center (NTTC) in Millington, Tenn." 

"I was then stationed at the Naval Air Station at Barbers Point, Hawaii, and worked as an aviation storekeeper. I was then sent to Coronado, Calif., for overseas training. All Navy personnel who went to Vietnam saw this training," he explained. 

Blair was deployed to the Fleet Air Support Unit (FASU) at DaNang Republic of Vietnam. The FASU repaired damaged aircraft prior to their return to the aircraft carriers. 

"I spent one year at the air base. I wasn't out in the field. I ran the warehouse at night. There were four warehouses, and an outdoor motor fuel depot where we stored aircraft engines, 55-gallon drums of oil and other chemicals," he said.

"I had one year of junior college in Estherville, Iowa before I was drafted. When I returned from Vietnam I attended Mankato State College in Mankato, Minn., and earned a degree in recreation and parks administration.  

Community service

Blair was active in the local VFW organization and eventually became the commander. "We had a strong VFW group in the late 1990s. We put on chili feeds and pancake breakfasts in the city hall. We used the money we raised for the purchase of savings bonds for the winners of the youth essay contest and other community projects. The group eventually had to disband due to lack of membership," he recalled.

Freedom Rock Project

In 2015 Blair attended a county-wide American Legion meeting. He remembered, "The American Legion group had been discussing, for a couple of years about getting a Freedom Rock in Clayton County. That evening I got on the computer and contacted Freedom Rock artist Ray "Bubba" Sorensen, and inquired whether anyone had contacted him about bringing a Freedom Rock to Clayton County. He had no other inquiries. I wrote out a check for the thousand dollar deposit, downloaded, printed and filled out the paperwork and sent it in to get the ball rolling."

Freedom Rock Committee

The original Freedom Rock committee was comprised of representatives from area veteran groups, Jim Eglseder, AMVETS; Dick Eilers, Guttenberg Veteran Memorial Monument; Carson Palmer, American Legion; Bob Moser, VFW, and Blair.

"We didn't get much accomplished that first year or so other than finding a rock and a location to set it. Nancy McClellan and Wendy Kuhse joined the group and the project really took off," he noted.

Blair expressed gratitude for McClellan's and Kuhse's hard work and dedication to the project. "Nancy does most of our computer work, and has applied for three separate grants that we have received in addition to taking care of all the mailings and secretary work," he said. 

Kuhse and her husband, Lanny,were responsible for bringing the half-size replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., to the Clayton County Fairgrounds.

The wall, which is nearly 253 feet long, displays the names of the more than 58,000 men and women killed in Vietnam, as well as those who are still missing.

"Wendy, who handles the finances for our group, was responsible for filling out the paperwork to bring the moving replica to our community. Her experience with that process and securing funding for the project was very valuable to our own project," said Blair.

M.J. Smith, Director of Affiliate Foundations for the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, became involved with the group. "M.J. became involved in our group to assist with fundraising. She assisted us with setting up the Clayton Country Freedom Rock Fund," he reported.  

"We are now raising funds for the landscaping, sidewalks, protective shelter, flag poles and lighting. The sidewalks will be handicap accessible with hand railings. We have received in-kind and monetary donations to help get us where we are today," he reported.

The group has also procured money through fundraising mailings to area veterans involved in organizations, and canvassed Clayton County businesses door-to-door leaving off donation sheets. The active group has also had a presence at local festivals and parades throughout Clayton County raising awareness for the project. 

Blair noted, "Veterans or their families can purchase a paver. We will have their name, rank, branch of service and years served engraved on it. The pavers will be placed around the rock as part of the landscape project. The deadline to obtain a paver is Dec. 31, 2019." 

To date approximately 110 pavers have been purchased to honor area veterans. The sidewalk portion of the project has been put on hold while the group waits for the lifting of the Limbeck (Horseshoe) Pond bridge. 

Blair explained, "The city had plans to raise the bridge. They have now moved forward on the project, so we will wait until the bridge is lifted to place the sidewalks. We hope to complete the remainder of our project next spring." 

He concluded, "As I have traveled throughout the county, many people have made positive comments about Clayton County's Freedom Rock."

If you would like to make a donation to the Freedom Rock Fund visit online: The Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, the Clayton County Freedom Rock Facebook page, or contact Blair at 563-379-4852.

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