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50th anniversary of Sayers Dam celebrated

by on October 03, 2019 10:57 AM

 

HOWARD — On Sept. 28, an open house and anniversary ceremony was held to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the construction of the Foster Joseph Sayers Dam near Blanchard.

Sayers Dam was constructed by and is operated and maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District. Since its completion in 1969, it has prevented more than an estimated $212 million in flood damage for downstream communities.

Sayers, a native of Howard, joined the U.S. Army in the middle of WWII. He was assigned to Company L, 357th Infantry, 90th Infantry Division. In November of 1944 with his company engaged in fierce fighting near Thionville, France, Sayers moved forward on his own initiative to engage two German machine gun emplacements, drawing their fire so the rest of his company could move across an open field and outflank the enemy position. While his comrades wiped out the Nazi defenders, Sayers was hit multiple times and died that day from his wounds. For his bravery, he was posthumously awarded the nation’s highest honor — the Medal of Honor. He was just 20 years old, and is the only person from Centre County to be awarded the Medal of Honor.

When Bald Eagle State Park was created, the nearly 8-mile-long lake and its containment dam were named for Sayers, and a small memorial was constructed near the breast of the dam, near the village of Blanchard in Liberty Township. In May 2017, the second phase of the Sayers memorial was unveiled in a lakeside ceremony.

Speakers for the 50th anniversary ceremony included Congressman Glenn Thompson (R-Howard), Medal of Honor recipient Brian Thacker, Centre County commissioners Mark Higgins and Michael Pipe, Army Corps of Engineers Baltimore District Commander Col. John Litz, and Foster Joseph Sayers Jr., a Vietnam-era veteran and the son of the memorial’s namesake.

Litz spoke, recognizing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers crew that operates and maintains the dam and lake for flood control, and works with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. He noted that many houses, farms and churches were sacrificed to create the lake. He presented a plaque to Foster Sayers Jr. honoring Sayers’ father.

Thompson addressed the crowd of about 70 people, praising the saving of lives and property damage from flooding. He presented Sayers Jr. with a certificate from the U.S. Senate, recognizing the 50th anniversary of the dam’s completion, as well as an American flag that had been flown over the capitol.

Thacker, a Medal of Honor recipient for his service in Vietnam, spoke, noting that Foster Sayers was a machine gunner in World War II, and that machine gunners are prime targets for enemies.

“He made himself a target,” said Thacker of Sayers. “He knew what he was doing.”

Higgins spoke, honoring Sayers and Medal of Honor recipients, noting that there are fewer than 80 living recipients.

Pipe addressed the crowd, stating, “You cannot serve without sacrifice. Service itself demands sacrifice.”

The final speaker was Foster J. Sayers Jr., who honored his father’s bravery and sacrifice.

 

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