The Pulaski County School Board voted 5-0 Tuesday evening to recommend that the roadway leading to the entrance of the new middle school be named after the county’s lone Medal of Honor winner.
The issue now moves to the Board of Supervisors, which has final say on what the roadway will be named.
The board’s decision ended weeks of discussion and debate over what to name the road – debate that arose after members of the Citizens for Education proposed naming it “Citizens Way” in recognition of the citizen-led effort to pass a bond referendum to finance construction of the new, consolidated Pulaski County Middle School.
Mike Barbour, Vice Chairman of the School Board, made the motion to recommend to the supervisors the name of “Corp. Lewis Kenneth Bausell Medal of Honor Way.”
A native of Pulaski County, Bausell grew up on Henry Avenue in Pulaski prior to his family’s moving to Washington, D.C.
Following Pearl Harbor, Bausell enlisted in the Marine Corps. in 1941 at the age of 17. He was killed in 1944 from injuries he sustained in the battle of Peleliu in the Pacific.
Bausell earned the Medal of Honor for throwing himself on a Japanese grenade in an effort to save his fellow Marines. He died on a hospital ship three days later.
Barbour’s motion came after the board heard from four citizens urging the roadway be named after Bausell, and a presentation by Dr. Paige Cash, Robinson District representative on the school board.
Dana Jackson of Fairlawn told the board that he has no problem seeing something at the new middle school being named after the citizens group. However, he said naming the roadway to the entrance of the school after Bausell would provide an opportunity for students to learn about “this county’s only national hero.”
Jackson said to do so is the “only one correct solution in making up for all the years of ignorance and neglect that this county has showed by forgetting its only Medal of Honor recipient.”
Jackson said naming the street after Bausell would be akin to “pulling his name out of the trash and putting it back where it belongs.”
Jackson concluded by urging county citizens to make sure “Pulaski County never forgets Kenneth Bausell again.”
E.W. Harless, Dallas Cox and Al Davis followed Jackson in voicing support for the naming of the roadway after Bausell.
Cox told the school board that veterans from every war – from the French and Indian to present day – are buried in Pulaski County.
“As long as we remember them, they never die,” Cox said in asking the board to name the roadway after Bausell on behalf of all veterans in Pulaski County.
Davis noted that a Navy destroyer was named after Bausell and a monument in Manilla in the Philippines bears his name.
Harless said young people today haven’t had the chance to grow up in a time in which they are taught to have respect for law officers and the military, and naming the road after Bausell would help enlighten them.
Cash was the only school board member to speak about the issue, noting she didn’t make her mind up on how she would vote “until 10 this morning.”
“That is because I am responsible to the people of the Robinson District – the people who elected me – and I wanted to talk to them to see what they thought,” Cash stated.
She continued that most of the people with whom she talked “didn’t know who Bausell was.” Others, she said, made suggestions of people who lived in the county who had made contributions to the community’s economy and development such as C.E. Richardson, Joe Reed, Eddie Sutphin and others.
Some, she added, suggested naming the road after veterans who were life-long residents of the county, law enforcement officers and first responders.
Cash said she did her own research on Bausell in addition to what had been presented to the board initially when it was first suggested the road be named after him.
Her findings made an impression on her and she related what she had learned to the sacrifices made in war by family members of hers and by other veterans she has come into contact with in her work at New River Community College.
In the end, Cash said she didn’t want the new middle school to be “dogged by controversy,” and for the “sake of unity in Pulaski County” she would vote “yes” on naming the road after Bausell.
However, Cash urged everyone in attendance Tuesday, who she said knows who Bausell was, to be prepared to explain to others in the community who don’t know who he was and why the road is named after him.
“Don’t assume they know or agree,” Cash advised.
“They’ll ask and we need to be prepared to answer that question, tell his story and make sure that street sign inspires the respect and gratitude he deserves,” she added.
By MIKE WILLIAMS, The Patriot