In the small town of Blanchard, Pennsylvania a monument can be found that celebrates Private First Class Foster Joseph Sayers (PFC) and recognizes local veterans. In front, a large American flag that overlooks a body of water along with miles of wilderness. In the background, a row of flags flying so elegantly in the wind to celebrate the different military branches. According to Merriam-Webster (2020), courage is defined as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear or difficulty.” The memorial of PFC Foster Joseph Sayers depicts the courage of himself but also many veterans from the surrounding area. PFC Sayers joined the United States Army in March of 1943 during World War II, an act of courage, where he risked his life for the freedom of the United States.
WWII was a time of fear for many in the country, PFC Sayers decided to run toward the danger, a sacrifice that eventually cost him his life. While in combat on November 12, 1944, PFC Sayers again ran toward the danger just 20 yards from the Germans, knowing that in order to help his fellow soldiers move to a safe area in order to attack, some order of distraction would be necessary; he distracted the Germans by climbing a steep hill then began setting off his firearm in the direction of the enemy while receiving heavy return firing (Pennsylvania Military Museum, 2017). This is where PFC Sayers would lose his life, sacrificing his own to save those of his fellow soldiers. At just 20 years old, his courageous sacrifice allowed the U.S. soldiers to move to safety with minimal causalities (Milazzo, 2017).
Private First Class Sayers is a local hero to Centre County and in particular the towns of Blanchard and Howard, Pennsylvania. These two small towns recognize the sacrifices PFC Sayers made in a variety of ways. There was a dam built in his memory called “Sayers Dam”, but the most recent memorial is a statue of him overlooking the body of water that is controlled by his dam, Bald Eagle State Park, but to the locals (such as myself) it is just known as “the Dam”.
Locals say that it is quite inspiring and gives many quite a sense of pride to be from a small town that outsiders may not be aware of. Once these outsiders visit and learn about just a small portion of the history and see the beauty of it, they just cannot get enough and return frequently. The statue memorial of PFC Sayers overlooks the body of water, much like he was watching over his fellow soldiers on the day he lost his life. PFC Sayers was awarded the Medal of Honor on October 19, 1945 for his extreme courage and act of bravery (Pennsylvania Military Museum, 2017). Sayers is immortalized in this manner because to many in the area, he is a hero today just like he was to the soldiers that day during World War II.
The memorial can be found in a peaceful part of Blanchard, Pa, away from all the chaos. It was built in 2017, by the students of Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology (CPI), which is a technical school found in Centre County. Although Sayers is the focal point of this memorial, it also celebrates local veterans and other military members who have died in battle. The students of CPI laid 1,200 square feet of brick engraved with veteran’s names (Milazzo, 2017). According to Milazzo (2017), it was stated that the project took around three and a half weeks to complete with an original budget of about $15,000.
It was later released that just the statue of PFC Sayers alone was $12,000, no final cost was released. As previously mentioned, the focal point of the memorial is, of course, PFC Sayers, but many other small details that make this a unique memorial such as, the brick walkway that commemorates both living and deceased veterans from the surrounding area. In front of the statue, there is a replica of a Betsy Ross Flag that would have been created in May 1776; behind is a row of five flags representing all five branches of the U.S. military (Milazzo, 2017). A small-town hero was who PFC Foster Joseph Sayers was and a Medal of Honor recipient, but his memorial did not receive much recognition from national sites but rather from small sources surrounding the towns of Howard and Blanchard, PA, such as the Centre Daily Times Newspaper.
Stories from the locals
Throughout the years of living in this small town, many stories have circulated around about the veterans. PFC Sayers lived in the town way before many of the current residents, but his story lives on forever. His son, Foster Joseph Sayers Jr. was only two months old when his father was killed in combat; despite losing his father at such a young age, he has followed in his footsteps to fight for his country in Vietnam (Lewis, 2017). While this monument is clear as to whom it is commemorating, it has a deeper meaning to many local veterans as well. Each name that is engraved in the brick walkway is an individual in the community who has served in a branch of the United States military. Some military members went overseas to fight for freedom and some stayed back home to keep peace within the country. Regardless of where these veterans went, they made the sacrifice to put their countries before themselves. Many have lived to tell their stories and inspire the next generation, and some never made it back home but their legacies and stories of courage remain alive and well.
The Deeper Meaning
I have been fortunate enough to have grown up in the town of Blanchard for much of my life and have been able to experience its highs and lows. On Memorial Day in 2017 the PFC Foster Joseph Sayers memorial opened officially, and it is one of the many commemorations our small town prides upon. PFC Sayers has been a small-town hero since he first left to go to war. Bald Eagle State Park named the dam in his memory and now he has his own official statue. The statue is facing Sayers Dam, while PFC Sayers is holding a firearm looking as if he is about to go to combat. The statue facing the water is similar to how he protected his fellow soldiers; standing ready to fight and protecting all that surrounded him. He made the ultimate sacrifice and lost his life in battle, by climbing a hill to distract the Germans so his fellow U.S. soldiers could maintain a safe position (Pennsylvania Military Museum, 2017). The statue sitting on top of the hill overlooking the body of water represents exactly that. The brick walkway with other veteran’s names shows that PFC Sayers almost paved the way for all future U.S. military members in the area. PFC Sayers shows what courage looked like and what it means to make a sacrifice for your country.
- Merriam-Webster. (2020). Courage. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/courage
- Pennsylvania Military Museum. (2017, February 21). Medal of honor: Foster J. Sayers.
- Lewis, A. (2017, May 27). Memorial honors Blanchard native, world war II hero. WTAJ.
- Milazzo, B. (2017, May 26). CPI students help to complete additions to Foster Joseph Sayers
- Memorial. Centre Daily Times. https://www.centredaily.com/news/local/article152986909.html