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Earl Wenger gave his name to the field where Fredericksburg baseball players enjoy the national pastime, but two young brothers want to be sure everyone else knows that Wenger also gave his life in service to his country.
Wenger was just 19 years old when he was killed in action in Italy during World War II. In 1996, Earl Wenger Memorial Field was built and named in his honor.
But Dylan Beard and Austin Beard – brothers from Northern Lebanon Township and teammates on the Fredericksburg American Legion baseball squad – want to ensure that Wenger gets the recognition he deserves.
“I love our country,” said Dylan, an 18-year-old first baseman. “I was always raised to respect the flag, respect our country and respect everyone, but to have an even higher respect for the people who fought for it. Going off to fight a war is one of the most patriotic things you can do. People need to respect our veterans. It’s about America and patriotism.”
He and his brother have embarked on a mission to honor Wenger by erecting a monument at the field, where Fredericksburg plays its home games.
“Overall, we just want everyone to know that it’s not just a ball field,” said Austin, a 17-year-old pitcher. “It’s learning about Earl Wenger. To have a plaque in a visible spot … would let more people know who he was and what he did.”
The Beards hope to raise between $5,000 and $7,000 to install an obelisk stone memorial with a plaque honoring Wenger’s service at a prominent place on the grounds. The project is still very much in the planning stages, and the Beards haven’t quite figured out exactly how they are going to raise the money, but it could include a GoFundMe page on social media, personal donations, fundraisers and possibly financial assistance from Fredericksburg Post 915, which sponsors the team.
“I envision a bronze plaque with maybe a picture of Mr. Wenger, his lifespan and a few words about him and why the field was named after him,” Dylan explained. “Maybe some stars on it and maybe some red, white and blue flowers around it. Build it somewhere a lot of people come through so they can know why it’s called Earl Wenger Field.”
“I want it to look nice,” Austin added. “I want it to be something his family can see and be proud of. I want people to know how important his values are to our legion team, and Dylan and me. We just want to raise awareness. For how many games are played here, I don’t think people know why it’s called ‘Earl Wenger Field,’ or understand the meaning behind it.”
The brothers knew Earl Wenger’s name but didn’t know his story, either, until Memorial Day, when their father – Coach Steve Beard, a retired police officer – gave an address to the team about Wenger’s history. There was also a moment of silence in Wenger’s memory before the National Anthem.
But what really resonated with the Beard brothers was that, at the time of Wenger’s death in battle, he wasn’t much older than they are now.
“He was a young man who grew up in the Fredericksburg area,” said Austin. “He was called to war. Fortunately for us, he answered the call. Unfortunately, he lost his life doing it. I’d say he’s a hero. Anyone who would sacrifice their life for our country is a hero.”
“I’m almost 19,” Dylan added. “He gave his life for our freedom. I couldn’t imagine being in his shoes, fighting for our country and not knowing if you’re ever going to see your family again. I think that’s something that people need to recognize.”
Constructed on land owned by Fredericksburg Post 915 in 1996, Earl Wenger Memorial Field is a baseball complex that not only hosts local American Legion and Junior Legion games, it has also become known as one of the finest baseball facilities in the area. For scholastic and American Legion teams from all over, Earl Wenger field has become a destination during their pursuits of championships.
Over the last 25 years, numerous improvements have been made to enhance the field’s facilities. The Beards’ project will stay true to that mission.
“When I first started playing here, I thought of it as just a step down from playing on a major league baseball field,” said Austin. “It’s so grand, especially for people in our age group. You don’t get an opportunity to play on many fields nicer than this. I started playing here when I was 14, and, at that time, I couldn’t comprehend Earl Wenger’s whole story. Now, I understand it better.”
“It is known as one of the nicest – if not the nicest – baseball fields around,” Dylan agreed. “It’s a privilege, as a player, to play here. It’s known in the community. It’s a beautiful baseball field. People have come from all around to play here.”
Dylan said Legion baseball is also about service, and he hopes everyone will get involved and help raise money for the project.
“It’s something that’s going to last a long time,” he said. “But the end goal is to inspire all legion teams to perform similar acts.”
“Our great-grandfather also served in World War II, and we have other family members who are veterans,” Austin said. “I think by doing this, it will also acknowledge other veterans.”
To learn more about the Beards’ Earl Wenger Memorial project, or to donate, email firstname.lastname@example.org.