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Saturday August 23rd 2014

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Exclusive: Military feared Wall South funds would be diverted to a drinking hooch. They were right

The former treasurer of the Wall South Foundation says that Commander of the Defense Commissary Agency that raised half million dollars for the ongoing maintenance of the Wall South project in Pensacola feared that some of the Pensacola veterans involved in the project would “build themselves a drinking hootch with his patrons’ money.”

Apparently that is exactly what they did, according to recent reports in the daily newspaper.

In a letter to the Independent News, Joseph Halsted,who served as the foundation’s treasurer from 1989 until the Wall was completed in 1992, wrote that the Defense Commissary raised $500,000 to build the monument, that is a replica of the Vietnam War monument in Washington, D.C., and $500,000 for the ongoing maintenance. The State of Florida matched the Wall South Foundation donations to pay for the $1.2 million construction.

Halsted stated the Defense Commissary Agency ran a national Cause Marketing Promotion in 1993 where military commissary customers, active duty and retired military folks, purchased products from manufacturers who donated a portion of each sale to the Wall South Foundation. Special restrictions were placed on how the money could be spent by the local foundation.

“The Wall South Foundation agreement with the Defense Commissary Agency required that the funds must be placed in a perpetual blind trust with the Wall South Foundation only able to draw interest earnings for Wall Maintenance,” said Halsted. “The Commander of the Defense Commissary Agency, General John Dreska, specifically stated that he did not want ‘those Vets in Pensacola to build themselves a drinking hooch with his patrons money’.”

Somehow John Pritchard, the foundation president and vice president of finance since September 2003, figured out how to break that blind trust, according to Halstead, who is no longer affiliated with the foundation and now lives in California.

The News Journal reported on Sunday that The Vietnam Veterans Wall South Foundation had spent over $190,000 on the purchase of a West Pensacola building to house Veterans of Foreign War Post 706 and repairs to that building.

On Monday, Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward announced that he will create a special advisory committee of residents, veterans and other interested parties look into the ongoing maintenance of popular park at the foot of Ninth Avenue and overlooking Pensacola Bay.

There may be more to this story.