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Anyone driving to and from Osage who doesn’t know the name James Elwood Wickline will soon enough.

Dozens of people from Osage and Scotts Run, along with Monongalia County commissioners and local state legislators, gathered Thursday afternoon to dedicate the bridge spanning Scotts Run on Blue Horizon Drive.

The bridge was renamed in honor of Wickline, an Osage native, who died more than 70 years ago during World War II. He was jumping into the Netherlands to fight the spread of Nazi Germany — a 21-year-old member of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment.

Wickline played basketball at University High School and answered his country’s call, joining the U.S. Army after his graduation, in 1942. He took part in Operation Market Garden, the Allied operation to break the German grip on the Netherlands before crossing the Rhine River to invade Germany. Wickline died on Sept. 17, 1944, when his parachute failed to open, making him one of the first soldiers to die in the operation.

He is one of more than 8,000 Allied soldiers buried at the American Cemetery in Margraten, in the Netherlands.

Wickline’s story came to light decades later in 2002, when a 13-year-old Boy Scout, Maarten Vossen, decided to “adopt” his grave after watching Steven Spielberg’s “Saving Private Ryan.”

Vossen worked with the community to have the bridge named in Wickline’s honor and keep his memory alive. He made the journey to Mon County to be there for the dedication.  “This is really that moment when you realize ‘Wow, this is really happening,’ ” he said. “It’s kind of strange that life can be so short. Where was I at 21?”

The ceremony began with a 21-gun salute by members of VFW posts 9916 and 548, accompanied by the somber melody of Taps.

While the bridge was officially dedicated, the road signs will be placed at a later date. Vossen was presented with a replica James Elwood Wickline Memorial Bridge sign to take home.

Mon County Commission President Tom Bloom said he and Vossen are working together to create a high school exchange program between the Netherlands and Mon County Schools.

“It brings a nice message to the people of Osage and Scotts Run,” said Osage resident Al Anderson, who attended the ceremony. “This was one of the biggest places as far as people volunteering for the service. This is such a special blessing that will stay with us for a long time.”

Anna Hess, who became a Rosie the Riveter during the war, also turned out for the dedication.

She recently made a five-day trip to the Netherlands where she saw many of the old battle sites and stayed in a centuries-old hotel whose guests at various times included Adolf Hitler, along with dead and dying American soldiers.

“It put a face on the war,” she said. “Until then, it was just a history lesson.”

The bridge dedication is just the next step. Vossen is working with independent Dutch filmmaker Marijn Poels to make a documentary about Wickline and his community.

Poels said it will air next year. He topped off the ceremony by using a drone camera to film Osage and Scotts Run from a bird’s eye view.

Poels said the documentary is his way of preserving the freedom that he didn’t have to fight for. “We’ve lived in freedom and democracy for 70 years because of strangers traveling to a strange country,” he said. That freedom would not have been possible without the sacrifice of people like Wickline, he said.

On 2 July 2015 a ceremony was held to dedicate a bridge over the Monongahela River in Osage, WV in the memory of Pfc James E., Wickline..  The dedication came as the result of research conducted by Maarten Vossen (far left) of the Netherlands.

It was also Maarten who informed the delegation that the use of USAAC (U.S. Army Air Corps) was inappropriate and the promise was made to have the signage redone to reflect the appropriate airborne affiliation.


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