Gary Hall is a Vietnam veteran and a strong supporter of all veterans, especially those missing in action and prisoners of war. That’s why he’s passionate about the POW/MIA flag and its familiar black and white design. He thinks it should be flying at General Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport. Having met and interviewed General Downing, I suspect he would’ve agreed with Hall.

Unfortunately, Gene Olson, Director of Airports, strongly disagrees. Hall said Olson was emphatic about his opposition, pointing out there was no legal requirement to fly the flag. Olson claimed that if he flew the POW/MIA flag, the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and other organizations would want their flags to fly at the airport as well. As a former Boy Scout, I didn’t know we had a flag, but then I didn’t advance very far in acquiring merit badges. I also didn’t advance very far in the U.S. Army at the Spec. 3 rank. But, I do know Olson is wrong in his reasoning. Governed by the state and federal governments, paid for by American taxpayers, General Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport is no different than the U.S. Post Office or any other federal offices or buildings. There may not be a federal law requiring the flying of a flag honoring our prisoners of war and those missing in action, but there is a moral principle. Olson should recognize that, and if he doesn’t, members of the airport authority should.


By now everyone knows Portillos is planning to open a restaurant in Peoria after doing so in Normal and Champaign. The famous Chicago eatery has a fan club in Peoria who are already licking their chops at the thought of enjoying the delicious sandwiches, hot dogs, and salads without having to go to nearby cities. But wait. The developer is demanding the city impose a 30-year, 1 percent tax on customers who eat at Portillos. He’s even gone so far to say if the city doesn’t agree to his demands, Portillos will drop plans to come to Peoria.

Amazingly, some council members agree with the developer. I don’t. Neither does Councilman Sid Ruckriegel. The long-time restaurant owner says the tax isn’t fair to local owners like Donnelly’s Pub who, without tax help, moved into the long vacant former Lone Star Steak House on Rockwood. Owners of Kouri’s Pub on nearby Sterling went it alone as did Sterling Family Restaurant. The highly successful Portillos doesn’t need to add a 1 percent tax on its customer’s bill, especially for 30 years. Good food. Bad idea.


Many of us recall the days when fans of Bradley basketball use to rock Robertson Memorial Fieldhouse. There was a time when Bradley was nationally ranked and playing in the Fieldhouse was one of the most feared places for opposing teams. It was called the “Snake Pit” by some as well as other not so complimentary names. Bradley sports teams in early days were developed by the legendary A.J. Robertson. When the Fieldhouse bearing his name was demolished and replaced by the Renaissance Coliseum, Bradley erected and dedicated a stately statue of Robertson. It sits a few feet from what was once the Fieldhouse.

While Bradley was known for its basketball teams beginning with the “Famous Five,” it has, too, a fine academic reputation. Over the years, that has sometimes been lost with basketball and soccer wins and headlines.

I suggest Bradley has an opportunity to remind people of its scholastic excellence while honoring one of its graduates who achieved national recognition. Major Robert H. Lawrence graduated from the university in 1956. A member of the U.S. Air Force ROTC program, Lawrence received his diploma and a 2nd Lieutenant rank. He went on to become a pilot and was so good he became a flight instructor. Later Lawrence was assigned to work with pilots in the German Air Force. In 1965, he received a Ph.D. in physical chemistry at Ohio State University. His skill as a pilot was accomplished by flying over 2,500 hours, 2,000 of those in jets. Major Lawrence completed test pilot school in 1967 and was named the first black astronaut that same
year. In December 1967, Lawrence was flying as test pilot instructor in an F-104 at Edwards Air Force Base with a flight test trainee who came in too fast. The plane crashed, the trainee successfully ejected, but Lawrence was killed.

I respectfully urge Bradley president Gary Roberts and university officials to consider a statue of Major Robert H. Lawrence to be proudly erected in front of Bradley Hall in honor of his academic achievements and for his distinguished military career including selection as the first African-American astronaut.


“The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.”
– General Douglas MacArthur

Roger Monroe

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