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'Welcome Home' military tribute is result of community effort

 

Last updated 6/11/2018 at 12:04pm

Jackie Heyneman, left, and Jason Springston work on the fence at the "Welcome Home" military tribute site on East Mission Road.

FALLBROOK – The history of the "Welcome Home" military tribute represents a community effort as the tribute's creation and maintenance cannot be attributed to the efforts of just one organization.

The roots of this project were nurtured by the determination, dedication and drive of a few local citizens. The Fallbrook Beautification Alliance (FBA), the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce, the Fallbrook Land Conservancy, and the Fallbrook Village Association (FVA) have encouraged such efforts.

Initially, this site was a forgotten piece of County property and did not have an address. It once was a part of an easement road connecting E. Mission Road to Old 395 prior to the construction of the I-15 freeway. On Sept. 17, 2009, the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce dedicated this area as a "Welcome Home" tribute to honor our service members.

The first to make improvements to this tribute was Save Our Forest (SOF), a committee of the Fallbrook Land Conservancy. SOF helped the Chamber through the permitting process for the flag pole and began the permitting process to install electricity to light the flag with a commitment from Dorothy Ransberger to pay the electric bill. Soon after, a community member felt it more responsible to use solar and donated funds for that installation. Ron Chesney was the contractor who stepped up to the plate with the installation of the lighting system and the flag pole.

Jackie Heyneman along with many dedicated volunteers from SOF introduced an enormous amount of top soil and planted a dozen oak trees and many native and drought tolerant plants on this site. The area was enclosed by a chain link fence and families honoring their loved one's military service attached posters and cards on the fence.

Fallbrook residents soon learned it is illegal to hang signs on county property. Don McDougal, FBA Board Member at the time, arranged for the permit to replace the chain link fence with a wooden split rail fence on the side of the property facing Old 395. FBA supplied funding for the fence. Heyneman discovered the beautiful boulder now adorned with a plaque featuring the inscription, "In Honor of Those Who So Bravely Serve This Country. Welcome Home." Southwest Boulder transported the boulder to the site, free of charge.

The flag pole on this site was originally from the Fallbrook Public Library. Bob Leonard, former CEO of the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce, had the foresight to save the flag pole for years, until it was dedicated to this site in 2009. At first, the flag was illuminated at night by a solar-powered lighting system. In June 2013, the Rough Riders dedicated a POW flag to this site. They held a heart-warming ceremony and many wartime stories were told around the base of the flag pole.

Later in the year, repeated vandalism of the solar powered lights and stolen inverters led to costly replacements paid for by Save Our Forest. At one point, SOF paid their employee to repair the solar lighting. However, the system became insufficient to illuminate the flag the entire night, and the Chamber removed the flag.

On Memorial Day 2014, Jason Springston drove by the "Welcome Home" tribute with son Abbott, a cub scout at the time, and observed the scene. The split rail fence was damage by a previous car accident, trash was piling up, and there was no flag flying on Memorial Day. As a previous Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce president in 2013, Springston knew the community had made a promise to our veterans and active duty to honor them with this site, so he and his son cleaned up the trash and raised our nation's flag, fortuitously stored in the back of their truck.

Springston promised his son from that day forward this tribute will have our nation's flag properly displayed. In addition to paying for and repairing the broken section of fence, Springston and Abbott arrived sunrise and sunset to raise and lower the flag from May 31, 2014, through March 14, 2016. David and Samantha Veitman assisted in the raising and lowering of the flag at times when they were away. Friends and family also became involved with this ceremony.

In October 2014, Springston began the process of obtaining the required county permits for installation of electrical wiring to illuminate the flag at night. Step by step, over a course of nearly two years and a personal expense of $10,826.00, Springston obtained five permits and the professional work required to install electricity to the tribute site.

The difficulty in this permitting process was attributed to its location on county property in a right of way. If the tribute was on private property, it would have been a matter of obtaining an electrical building permit for $250 and inspection upon completion.

Springston was instructed by the county to first locate the existing encroachment permits issued for the previous projects at the site. Phase one was for the flag pole and solar lights. Phase two was for the plaque and for the split rail fence. Springston needed to amend both encroachment permits. He also was required to obtain an electrical building permit, a trenching and traffic control permit, and a maintenance and removal agreement.

The county would not allow Springston to dig his own trench, therefore he paid Peter's Paving and Grading for the trenching and Fritz Tatzer for the electrical. Eric Engebretson helped secure the electrical permits. Springston later secured an official address for this site: 3925 E. Mission Road.

The county informed Springston that as a part of the maintenance and removal agreement, the county at any time may decide to take back this property and the Chamber of Commerce would incur the costs of removing all items from this site. A $5,000 Patriotic Community Living Trust was awarded to this project for maintenance. The chamber currently pays the $12 per month SDG&E bill out of funds set aside for this project. Bill and Loraine Flegenheimer made a private donation to cover the initial costs of the project. The Chamber awarded Springston $1,500 to cover a small portion of his costs for this project.

The lighting project was complete March 14, 2016. The Springston family watched at sunset, from the back of their truck in their pajamas, the first electrical lighting of the "Welcome Home" military tribute's flag pole. Springston stated, "the most important take-away is Fallbrook loves and supports all our veterans and active duty military and this project was for them."

Dan Clouse works at the "Welcome Home" military tribute site.

Springston would like to honor the original spirit of the project conceived by Leonard, Chesney, and Heyneman, as implemented by the Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce and the Fallbrook Beautification Alliance. Tom Peterson has been the steward for this project for the FBA since 2016 and has dutifully visited the tribute every other week to clean up trash and to ensure the light is working properly over the flag pole in the evening.

In December 2017 another car hit the split rail fencing and tore down five sections of the fence. The need for repair was discussed at an FVA meeting, and Springston agreed to assist and to provide the split rail fencing material. Heyneman agreed to assist and find volunteers for the repair, and after one failed attempt, she met Marta Donovan from the FBA and the need was discussed. Donovan agreed to help, along with fellow FBA volunteer Dan Clouse, already interested in helping with the maintenance of this tribute.

The small group met at the site April 25 and trimmed damaged sumac bushes and repaired the fence – another story of people in Fallbrook working together.

 

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