FAIRCHANCE, Pa. — A Fayette County community is working to honor a war hero; some people say the young man never got the recognition he deserved.
“25 years old, died on the battlefield, we haven’t forgotten him in Fairchance, we forgot about his valor is what we forgot about,” said Chuck Dean, Fairchance Exchange Club president.
A dedication service is scheduled at the Fayette County Cemetery on Saturday afternoon, but the group’s determination makes us proud to be from Pittsburgh.
Over the last 45 years, every time veteran Bill Miller visited his parent’s graves at the Maple Grove Cemetery, he would stop by a headstone about 50 yards away and pay his respects to A.L. Wilson.
“The little old town a Fairchance, Pennsylvania has a hero in its midst,” said Miller. “That went basically unnoticed for a long time.”
Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Alfred L. Wilson is buried alongside his mother and father. Miller said many people in their very community aren’t aware Wilson is even there.
“I’ve been trying to do something better for years, and I just haven’t gotten in touch with the right people,” said Miller.
So Miller contacted fellow veteran and local community service group president Chuck Dean to see if they could honor Wilson.
“I think they know who A.L. Wilson is because of the school named after him, the VFW is named after him, but they forgot again about his valor,” said Dean.
A.L. Wilson was a medic in the 26th Division during World War II and was injured during an attack. He refused to evacuate until all other soldiers were helped, and he eventually gave commends when he could not render aid. He saved 10 men but died from his injuries.
Wilson’s headstone was tarnished, and there was barely any signage explaining why he received the military’s most prestigious honor. Dean and others worked for more than a year to raise over $4,000 to get two different plaques installed, one near the road and the other by his gravesite.
“This stand was built was donated,” said Dean. “So everybody just started to give, and it just started to snowball effect. When you told someone about the project and A.L. Wilson, they automatically opened their hearts and wallets.”
The Fairchance Exchange Club also created a $1,000 high school scholarship each year in Wilson’s memory.
A.L. Wilson’s niece, Carolyn McKinney, never got to meet her uncle but thinks what the group is doing is fantastic. “It warms my heart that fair chance Exchange Club has done this to honor my uncle and to make sure that he is not forgotten he is remembered.”
Just as the American flags wave in the wind, the name A.L. Wilson will resonate more now than it has in the last 77 years as the community commemorates a true patriot.
“By golly, he’s our hero,” said Miller. “He’s Fairchance’s hero, and he’s finally getting a little bit more recognition that he had.”
Bill Miller, Chuck Dean, and the Fairchance Exchange Club are making us proud to be from Pittsburgh.