By Larry Beahan
Oct. 1: A shooter with a horde of ammunition and enhanced semiautomatic rifles fired from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas into a crowd of country western music fans. He performed the unimaginable. He slaughtered 59 people and injured 500 more before he was brought down by police gunfire.
Oct. 10: A Niagara Greenway notice popped up on my computer. I was to review a funding proposal, a statue of a WWII American soldier. He is firing a Browning automatic rifle, a BAR, the AR-15 of its day.
I represent an environmental group in a coalition that administers $2 million a year of ecological funding for the Niagara Greenway. Among our many projects are the rehabilitation of small islands of the river, Stella Niagara Preserve and stretches of the river’s shoreline. We are also charged with keeping an eye on the appropriateness of the rest of Greenway spending.
The Greenway has spent $1.8 million on statues, while the continuous belt of parks, greenspace and trails called for along the river lags far behind.
Oct. 20: Another shooter. This one slaughtered 26 worshipers at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas. His AR-15 fired bullets as fast as he squeezed the trigger. He could have modified it to shoot much faster. A bystander brought him down with a shotgun.
In the United States, with our relaxed gun laws, we are exposed to a gun death rate 10 times higher than Australia’s, 20 times higher than the United Kingdom’s, much higher than all the advanced countries of the world.
What message would a larger-than-life figure, standing at the Greenway entrance, firing a machine gun, present to Greenway visitors?
Grand Island hero, Pvt. Charles De Glopper died in an ugly hedgerow firefight. He stood up, walked toward the enemy and provided a BAR barrage. His action allowed his platoon to escape certain destruction, but it assured that he would not. His family mourns him, we mourn him. We are grateful for the lives he saved; troubled by his loss and, yes, troubled by the loss of those he sacrificed.
It is unlikely that De Glopper was in this terrible situation by choice or for medals. I’ve known countless people, including myself, who served in armed forces and risked dying, as De Glopper did.
We were not consulted when our countries decided to settle differences by means of war. We did what we had to do to protect our families. We did a lot of dying.
I believe this native son of Grand Island, this winner of the Medal of Honor, would have us remember him with a plaque set in a boulder in a peaceful grove of Native Grand Island Oak, not with a statue advertisement for Browning, Colt and Ruger.
Larry Beahan is the conservation chairman for the Sierra Club Niagara Group.