BOWMAN -- Amid chilly temperatures and windy conditions, the community joined in a show of patriotic unity Saturday morning as 165 U.S. flags were placed in rows in front of the Bowman War Memorial in the town’s park.
The flags are a tribute to the community’s military heroes honored as a part of the Bowman Beautification Committee’s first Veterans Day ceremony. Each flag purchased in honor or in memory of military relatives and friends was installed by a committee member in the grassy area between the park gazebo and the old town jail, a building that now bears the name, “A Walk Through Time Museum.”
“The program was meaningful to me and my wife because my dad and her dad were both military members and have passed away and we were able to display flags in their honor,” said Tony Curcio, pastor of Bowman Southern Methodist Church and a member of the National Guard.
“We thank veterans for the values that the military upholds – like honor, duty, loyalty, respect and especially selfless sacrifice,” Curcio said.
“The whole program was beautiful. Participation of our town blew all of our minds. It was more than we believed it would be,” said Shaquetta Pelzer, Bowman Town councilwoman and Bowman Beautification Committee member.
“During the program, you could see the patriotism in the veterans. You could see why they served. With their hats over their hearts and their expressions of military brotherhood, it helped us to feel just a little bit of what they feel. We know they fought and some of them fought because they wanted to serve their country. They are proud and you could see that in their faces,” Pelzer said.
“The JROTC from Bethune-Bowman participated and I think it helped the young people to see the sacrifices that have been made and to see us honoring our veterans. It is important,” Pelzer said.
“Our townspeople were impressed. They were in awe of what was displayed,” said Rachel Weathers, committee member, who added “people passing by on the street are taking special notice of the park with the flags blowing in the wind.”
“I was amazed at the turnout,” said Pat Parren, a retired nurse and a committee member who remembered that “especially the soldiers that returned home from Vietnam didn’t get the recognition they deserved. This shows them that we appreciate their sacrifices.”
The program was one of the many events and projects planned by the Bowman Beautification Committee, which has also initiated a “Yard of the Month” recognition to inspire the community.
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“We want to put a light on the flag, add a town sign and refurbish the town park,” said committee member Sherry Carter, who proudly stated the money raised by the committee funded the recent etching on the Bowman War Memorial of the name of Sgt. Demetrius Lamar Void, a young town member who lost his life in Afghanistan in September 2009.
Another endeavor near and dear to Carter’s heart is creation of a town museum with pictures, books and photos of Bowman, a community established around 1894.
“We want this area and building to be a place for the community to come together, for small groups to meet. It’s not just meant to be a museum,” said Carter, one of the six members of the group dedicated to preserving the history of the town and bringing the community closer together. Carter, a retired school teacher, wants to recount the story of Bowman’s people so that future generations would realize the impact that their ancestors had on the county of Orangeburg and the state of South Carolina.
“This all began when Sen. (John) Matthews got a grant for the town of Bowman and formed an economic committee of six members of which Shaquetta and I were a part. Since then, the original group is no longer together, but some new members have joined with us as the Bowman Beautification Committee to continue with the dream of improving the town of Bowman and instilling pride in our community,” Carter said.
“I got permission from the former mayor of Bowman, Marion Glenn, to turn the old jailhouse into a museum and community meeting place,” said Carter, who touts Eric Power of the Orangeburg Historical Society for being a tremendous resource in how to gather and display items for the public to enjoy and learn. Glenn, a U.S. Army veteran, passed away in July.
According to the committee, with the support of interim the mayor and now newly elected Mayor Patsy Rhett, the museum project has been gathering steam and the committee is seeking donations of artifacts of historical significance to include in the museum.
“We would like to collect old things that they could put on display for others to see our way of life. We’d like to display things so that people could come in, enjoy and see our past and our present,” said Weathers, also a former school teacher.
“I am originally from New York and I am interested to see the history of Bowman since I was not here earlier,” said Parren, who has been a town resident for the past 12 years.
Other members of the Bowman Beautification Committee are Darlene Holt, Judy Herzog and Morgan Sass.
“We are off to a great start. It’s a process but we are very proud of this building. We look forward to seeing it grow,” said Pelzer, who continued to speak of unity and a joining together of the people of Bowman to learn about each other and to teach the youth of the town about their history.
“We want to show people we appreciate where the town has come from and where the town is going,” Pelzer said. “We want to do our part in helping people believe in this town.”