Organizers raising money for veterans memorial wall - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Organizers raising money for veterans memorial wall

POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KFVS) -

A number of counties in the Heartland have veteran walls.

It's a way to honor past, present and future service members who follow the call to serve our country.

In Butler County, organizers say they still owe $55,000 to finish paying for their wall.

Betty Joyce Pruitt lost her brother, Billie Kanel, when he fell on two grenades in the Korean War to save those in the bunker with him. He was awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery. Now, his sister is making sure Billie and other service members will always be remembered.

"It changed our life whenever he left," Pruitt said.

She still remembers being a young girl when her family got the news her older brother Billie died.

"We all run the mailbox hoping for a letter," she said. "Then after we got the missing in action notice, it was only three days that followed that mommy and daddy got the notice that he was killed in action."

But Kanel's story can't be summed up in a letter.

A hand grenade was tossed in a bunker that he was in. Accounts from his fellow soldiers say Kanel didn't hesitate. He used his body to shield his fellow brothers. A few hours later another grenade was thrown. Kanel rolled over and covered it.

"I think early on that he had that instilled in him or possibly it was already there," Pruitt said. "I don't know. He was always protective."

Pruitt is taking a page out of her brother's book and protecting this treasure in Butler County. The wall was started decades ago, but it's been very slow funding. Slow meaning they still owe $55,000 on the project.

"And we have that payment due every July 11th and we are not wittling it down very quickly," Pruitt said.

She said she doesn't want to think about what would happen if they default on the loan. She wants her brother and every other veteran here, and ones to come to always be honored.

"But it truly changed the whole spectrum of how you perceive things, what's important to you, or what you thought was important and no longer is," Pruitt said.

If it does default, it could take money from taxpayers to cover the costs. Some people that we talked to on Thursday didn't want to see that happen.

If you would like to donate to the wall, you can call First Midwest Bank and direct your donation to the Butler County Veterans Memorial Fund.

One fundraising effort is underway. It's a bike ride on the Katy Trail in Missouri.

Three men from Butler County are planning to ride the entire trail, 237 miles.

Butler County EMA Director Jeff Shawn is one of those riding. He planned the fundraiser on Billy Kanel's birthday.

Shawn said that is all the motivation they need to complete the trip.

"When it gets really painful, I'm going to think about Billie Kanel," Jeff Shawn said. "He was only 20 years of age. I mean he was a 5 foot, 4 inch giant of a man who gave everything, so my rear end is a little sore and I'm tired for two or three days. I mean, it's really not that big of a deal."

That ride will be on June 26.

Copyright 2014 KFVS. All rights reserved.

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