EATON — After years of hard work, Preble County Heritage finally saw its goal achieved on Saturday, Sept. 23, when the M4A3 Sherman Tank affectionately known as “Miss Preble” was hauled down Main Street in her welcome home parade.
The tank has found a new home at Fort St. Clair, where she was crane-lifted onto a cement pad built just for her.
The tank was given to the city in 1957 as a gift to honor veterans of WWII and those serving in the Korean War. Over the years it became a symbol of Preble County pride and honored all area veterans.
Unfortunately, the tank was taken away by the Ohio National Guard on April 18, 2012. Eaton native Tina Marker started Preble County Heritage with Eaton resident and veteran Ernie Root. Their goal was to save — and later bring back — the tank.
According to Marker, in September 2014 the Armory was sold and the efforts of Preble County Heritage slowed down, but they never stopped trying to get “Miss Preble” back. Now, with the support of Eaton City Council, the goal has been achieved.
To celebrate the occasion, Marker, along with the rest of Preble County Heritage, planned a homecoming parade. They invited all to participate and asked for those with military vehicles to sign up to be a part of the parade.
The parade went down Barron Street, onto Main Street, and stopped at the Main Street Bridge. There the first dedication ceremony was held. Following the ceremony, the parade continued down Main Street, onto Camden Road, and stopped to hook the tank onto a crane, placing Miss Preble onto her new home. There the second dedication ceremony was held.
Both dedication ceremonies were the same, as — according to Marker — the group wanted those gathered on the bridge and those gathered at the Fort to hear the speakers. They wanted to include everyone in the festivities.
“We knew we would have people gathered in both locations and traditionally we have always done military dedications on this bridge, so we wanted to make sure we did that,” she explained.
“This is a real great day, isn’t it? Can you believe this day finally come, Eatonians? Can you believe this day has finally come, Preble Countians? History is made today, because of the dedication and commitment of plenty of individuals. I want to take the time to say thank you to Tina Marker and Preble County Heritage,” City of Eaton Mayor David Kirsch said.
He then introduced Jonathan Flora, who not only graduated from Eaton High School, but is a veteran and current Walt Disney producer. He directed the “Miss Preble” video.
“It is an honor to come back here to my home town and be with so many friends, classmates, family members, and veterans. With me you get a six pack — and I’m not talking about my abs. I want you all to know that you are reaching coast to coast. I have some comments here that I would like to read from upper military, Washington D.C., and also Hollywood,” Flora said.
“This first one, ‘To the citizens of Eaton, thank you for your efforts to bring Miss Preble back to her rightful place. I am of the opinion that how a country and her citizens honor veterans defines them as a nation. I am honored to have served our country for close to 40 years. I have fought in numerous conflicts during that time. This monument is not only a tribute to those that have served, but is also a tangible demonstration of the patriotism of the people of Ohio.
“Thank you for your continued support of the military and their families. All of us wearing the uniform continue to serve because of all of you. We are blessed as a nation to have citizens such as yourself. God bless each and every one of you.’ That was from Major General Hutmacher who is Director of Operations for U.S.Special Operations Command.”
Next Flora read a statement from retired Army Lieutenant Colonel and former member of Congress Allen B. West.
“The importance of Miss Preble to stand here in Eaton today is a reminder of what is best about America. Miss Preble pays tribute to those who have served in the past and inspires future generations to take up their pose on freedoms rampart. History is not just something to be taught, it is something to be experienced. Be it good or bad, we must learn from it and we must grow from it.
“Years from now, young children will come to this place and their parents and their grandparents will tell them, not just of the original story of Miss Preble, but the story of today when you and the people of Eaton said, ‘Not on my watch.’ God bless all of you and thank you for honoring all of of veterans.”
From Hollywood, Flora read a statement from Joe Mantegna of Criminal Minds.
“I applaud all the men and women responsible for bringing Miss Preble back home. It is fitting that it took a small town in Ohio to remind the nation that the second we ignore history, we are destined to repeat it. Obviously, Eaton has not forgotten the sacrifices of America’s finest who throughout our history have helped insure the peace and freedom we so covet in this great nation. My hats off to you.”
Also from Hollywood, actor Gary Sinise sent a statement for Flora to read. Flora described Sinise as “the Bob Hope of this generation.”
He read, “To the citizens of Eaton and especially the veterans, active duty, and military families attending today, let me applaud all of you on a successful mission accomplished as you beloved Miss Preble returns home. Once again, local veterans can now pass on the story of this piece of American history to future generations. Perhaps, it will encourage young people to hear it and dig a little deeper into the importance into having a strong defense and the blessing and good fortune to have strong defenders who are willing to stand for the freedom of the world.”
The last statement that Flora read was from M.A.S.H. star Jamie Farr, who played Corporal Klinger in the drama.
“I am very sorry that I cannot be there with you on the occasion of Miss Preble coming home where she belongs,” Flora read. “I am proud to be a Buckeye, but even more proud to be a veteran of the U.S. Army and a veteran of the icon television series celebrating the great service of our officers and enlisted men and women of the medical corps in M.A.S.H.
“When my friend Johnathan [Flora] first told me about the tank being taken away I thought, ‘That’s too bad.’ When he told me the tank was a gift as a war memorial to the veterans of Preble County for their service and sacrifices in WWII and Korea, I said, ‘That’s just not right.’ I was happy and honored to lend my voice to help bring this treasure home.
“This tank, like so many other symbols of sacrifice that are made by our military, is a reminder of the price that is paid for freedom and the responsibility that comes with inheriting the many liberties that we have today. We, all of us, are the stewards of such symbols.”
Flora added, “I just wanted to, again, let you know how far you are reaching out with this. When Tina [Marker] first called me many years ago, I was shocked. Memorials and war memorials, particularly like ours, are part of our history. Changing or erasing ones history should never be an option. I am so very proud that while so many communities and states are tearing down memorials, Eaton is putting one up.”
Following the two dedication ceremonies, “Miss Preble” was placed in her new home, where she will stay for future generations to view and enjoy.
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH