Photo collection showcases local vets Clay County Veterans Service Officer David Wherry adds to the collection of veterans' photos displayed on the walls of his office. He is about halfway to his goal of filling his walls with 150 photos of people from Clay County who served or are serving in the U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army and U.S. Coast Guard. by David Lias Clay County Veterans Service Officer David Wherry can't help but feel a sense of gratification these days.
Local veterans have come through on a request he made earlier this year. Thanks to their response, Wherry's office is being transformed into a showcase.
The lobby of his office in the county courthouse is no longer simply a waiting room. It now honors Clay County men and women, living and dead, who served or are serving in the U.S. military.
"We've had a tremendous amount of response from this, and all of it has been positive," he said.
People who visit Wherry's office are swept back in time. Many of the county's leading citizens, now middle-aged or older, appear young and fresh-faced in the photo display.
The oldest veteran featured in the photograph collection is U.S. Army PFC Frederick N. Burr, who served during World War I.
One of the youngest is Tim Willroth, 21, a corporal in the United States Marine Corps who is still on active duty.
"One of the most appealing things about all of this is the photos we've received run the gamut from privates to a major general," Wherry said.
He is especially pleased to have three women's photos � Fern Marcotte Morse and Harriet Johnson Randall, both who
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were WACs in the U.S. Army during World War II, and Sue Westergaard, who served with the United States Marine Corps from 1987 to 1991.
"I really like the fact that we have these three women's pictures here," Wherry said.
He decided early on that the display shouldn't be segregated by different branches of the armed service, different generations, or different tours of duty.
"Everyone is mixed together, and all the different generations are mixed, too," he said.
Earlier this year, the Clay County Commission gave Wherry the green light to pursue his idea. He got the word out to veterans and their families that he was looking for either 5 by 7 or 8 by 10 photographs.
The display started slowly at first. But before long, the east wall of Wherry's office began to be crowded by the framed photos.
The display spread to the north wall. Soon, that was full, thanks, in part, to a large framed display of the members of Battery F 147th Field Artillery, a local National Guard unit that was called to Fort Ord, CA in 1941.
Now the west wall of the front office is lined with rows of photos. By the end of March, Wherry had received 71 photos. He estimates he has enough wall space to display at least 70 to 80 more.
The display isn't designed to show the carnage of war. Wherry's goal is to present a pictorial record of the efforts made by local men and women in the armed services, at both times of war and peace.
County Commissioner Bill Willroth Sr., who served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean Conflict, urged Wherry to pursue his idea.
"His initial encouragement is really what helped me decide to bring up the idea with the county commission," Wherry said.
Wherry, who served in Vietnam with the U.S. Marine Corps, rose to the rank of major, and retired from the military after 23 years of service recalls repeatedly seeing photos of commanding officers hanging in the buildings of the military bases and veterans halls that he has visited.
"There was never any picture of your average member of the military, and I just thought this would be a way of doing something special for the veterans of Clay County," he said.
Wherry's office purchases the frames for each photo. Under each image is a label with the veteran's name, rank, military branch and years of duty.
Many of the photos are the formal portraits of men and women in full dress uniform customarily taken by the military.
Others, like the photo of a young Leo Powell standing between two Army trucks in Vietnam, were found in the bottom of boxes stored away in attics and closets.
"It's been a heck of a deal," Wherry said. "You cannot believe the traffic I get in here now. People go out of their way to stop by and look at these pictures."