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Legion: Gettysburg casino is a disgrace

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Legion: Gettysburg casino is a disgrace
The bronze statue representing the 72nd Pennsylvania Infantry gazes to the west across the field of "Pickett's Charge" from the Angle on Cemetery Ridge. Here was the "High Water Mark of the Confederacy" on July 3, 1863. NPS photo

Calling a plan to build a casino on the footprint of America’s bloodiest domestic battle site a “national disgrace,” the head of the nation’s largest veterans organization urged Pennsylvania officials to quash the project and protect the sanctity of Gettysburg.

In reasoning for his recommendation, The American Legion’s National Commander Clarence E. Hill reflected on the historical significance of the field where 160,000 Union and Confederate troops fought and nearly 8,000 died.

“When Abraham Lincoln dedicated the cemetery at Gettysburg, he said, ‘...we cannot dedicate - we cannot consecrate - we cannot hallow - this ground,’” Hill said. “Lincoln recognized then that it was beyond the power of men and women to consecrate this land any more than had already been done by the brave men who struggled there. Surely, he nor anyone else envisioned that someday this cemetery would be proposed as the site for a gambling hall.”

Although the proposal advanced by a Gettysburg business developer would place the casino a half mile from the 6,000-acre Gettysburg National Military Park, preservationists point out that the site would be next to where Union cavalry advanced toward the South Cavalry field – a substantial scene of the fighting. It is also believed that there are a number of soldiers buried in this area in unmarked graves.

“The battlefield actually encompassed a greater area than is currently designated as a military historical site. In order to show the proper respect, we believe that something as frivolous as a casino should be much more than a half mile away,” Hill said. “We need to be sensitive to the fact that this is a hallowed resting place and its tranquility should be preserved as much as possible.”

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB) hopes to reach a decision before the end of the year after a series of public meetings.

Hill pointed out that this consideration comes at a time where the remains of American heroes buried at Arlington National Cemetery have also been disrespected through a series of malfeasance by government officials.

“At least at Arlington National Cemetery, the desecrations were done in error and out of poor judgment,” he said “There is no way that The American Legion or the American people - especially her veterans - will stand by and let the memory and meaning of Gettysburg National Military Park be besmirched by this misbegotten plan to erect a casino in proximity to this hallowed ground.”

Peter Gaytan, executive director of the Legion's Washington office, will appear at 9:30 a.m. EST today on Fox News Channel to discuss the proposed casino.

 

Officials with The American Legion encourage veterans and other concerned Americans to register their opposition to the project by calling the PGCB or by attending the next public hearing. The number to the PGCB is (717) 346-8300. The hearing will be at the Gettysburg Comfort Suites Inn at 10 a.m., Aug. 31. The address for the meeting is 945 Baltimore Pike in Gettysburg, Pa.

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saveourhistory

November 19, 2010 - 10:28am

As a former member of the Gettysburg American Legion post, I did not renew my membership because of their stance FOR the casino. Their spokesperson, Richard Kitchner, stated that 9,000 veterans in Adams County support the casino (a lie) and also that the Civil War soldiers would be supportive of a casino. Obviously Kitchner, a veteran, knows nothing about American history or the history of Gettysburg. There is a document in the National Archives that asures that the Civil War veterans, themselves, did NOT want a casino at Gettysburg. How do we know this? Because it is documented that there was a casino here, and also a saloon and a brothel, east of Little Round Top. The veterans here for one of their reunions, were appalled at the existence of such vice on these hallowed grounds that they petitioned the government to remove same, and it was done without question! Thank you to the Legion commander for upholding the wishes of the veterans who actually fought here at Gettysburg.

carrierguy

August 17, 2010 - 11:54am

Viewing all these comments makes the issue crystal clear: It's all about Greed vs. Honor. Thank God, most American veterans choose to honor our war dead, from any war, with dignity, not hard cash.

William Mellors

August 15, 2010 - 2:51pm

Is Commander Hill aware that most of the Post in the Pennsylvania Department have small games of chance licenses? Yes legalized gambling in most of the Post. That is how many pay their bills. Is he also aware that Albert J. Lentz Post 202 is actually ON the battlefield, no not the National Military Park, but on the battlefield? Now doesn’t he make us look like hypocrites? Yes it is acceptable for us have gambling in our post ON the battlefield, but we are against a private business that involves gambling CLOSE TO the National Park. Didn’t most of our members fight for freedom? And that includes both freedom of speech as well as freedom of free enterprise. Thank you commander for putting us in that light with our neighbors.

Gburb Baseball Mom

August 14, 2010 - 8:29pm

Buddy you have no clue. I am a working single mother. How does that make me elitest? Anyone here that is elitest is you. You seem to think that you are more entitled to the American Dream than the populace of Adams County, PA for the simple fact that we are located next to a national park. You really should get a grip. And me the unamerican one? Really? When I am the one that actually supports the freedom to open a legal business on privately owned properly zoned property? Not to mention that I am a proud JROTC mother. Get a clue. I again, notice you have nothing to say about the local gambling near hallowed ground that goes on in the local Legions here in Gettysburg. Get real. Oh, and please do stop addressing me. But that does not mean that when you trot out your ridiculous arguments for interfering in a local issue that I will not continue to call you on it.

Gburb Baseball Mom

August 14, 2010 - 8:17pm

You are an uninformed fool. I have no need for a job at the casino and yes the soldiers you are blathering about have been dead for 147 years. The living veterans in Adams County are some of the hardest hit economically here. They could use some tax relief. Maybe you should research the issue before you shoot off your big mouth. Kind of like the National Commander Clarence Hill, unless you are him.

Bill N

August 14, 2010 - 8:10pm

"147-years dead people"? I suppose they died and other veterans have served so even ingrates like you can spew your unpatriotic venom. Good luck in making a buck at the casino. I have nothing more to say to you.

Gburb Baseball Mom

August 14, 2010 - 7:52pm

How nice of Bill N. to decree that Adams County has done a bad job of protecting the National Park. If he feels he can do better maybe he should do something about being in charge. The Park Superintendent (the new one, not the porn viewing on our dime one) has stated that the casino will have no effect on the Park. I guess Bill N. thinks he knows more. I guess he also cares more about 147 years dead people than the living ones struggling to support their families in Adams County.

Bill N

August 14, 2010 - 7:27pm

Maybe if the locals had done their jobs for the last several decades and protected the tranquility of this Hallowed ground, there would be no KFCs, bobbleheads, etc, and it wouldn't be necessary for the National Commander to step in. It's all about greed. Honor should not have a price. The Gettysburg post should be ashamed.

Gettysburg Post Member

August 14, 2010 - 5:35pm

Where was the National Commander or the American legion when in November, 1997 the National Park Service and the so called preservationist group, the Gettysburg Foundation partnered up to build a 220,000 square ft. building on 45 acres almost directly in the middle of the designated Gettysburg Battlefield? They justified the act of destroying 45 acres of battlefield by saying that that this part of the battlefield was only used as a staging area. It opened in 2008, complete whith Abraham Lincoln Bobble heads. This building, the visitor’s center is closer to where Pickett made his famous charge then the proposed casino sight. Where was the National Commander or the American Legion in the 1990’s when companies started popping up all over Gettysburg charging visitors for ghost tours of Gettysburg. Every night hoards of tourists walk up and down the “hollow ground” of the streets of Gettysburg looking for the ghosts of the brave men who fought and died here.

William Mellors

August 14, 2010 - 7:24pm

yes the supporters of the casino are local people. We know what is going one here. There is no sell out. this is in an existing building, that that is failing. It will be renovated and 100 jobs will be saved there, as well as up to 300 new jobs at the casino, and who knows how many more related jobs. This location can't be seen from anyplace on the National Park, or from any of the tour routs used to tour the battlefield. As to the analogy "what if they wanted to put a casino next to the USS Arizona Memorial Shrine?" Based on that statement I would be against it. But I would look into the story a bit more, and if I found out that "next to" was a half mile away and could not be seen from the memorial I would accept it. And if I found out that over 60 of the local people were in favor of it because they wanted/needed jobs, and other possible benefits. I would side with what the local people wanted.

Gettysburg Vietnam Vet

August 14, 2010 - 4:03pm

I cordially invite the Commander to visit Gettysburg. I will personally arrange for a licensed battlefield guide to accompany us to the proposed location to further clarify my statements. Just for the records, I am a longtime member of Legion Post 262 and am a home owner in Cumberland Township where the casino would be located. The Commander should have done his own research on this issue instead of just relying on information being passed on by a very questionable source. I anxiously await the Commander's reply to my invitation.

Gettysburg Vietnam Vet

August 14, 2010 - 3:53pm

It is beyond comprehension why the National Commander would even think of issuing such a statement. He has no clue about anything relating to a casino at Gettysburg. From the wording of the statement, it is apparent that he was given a pot of lies and misinformation by the Civil War Preservation Trust, and ate it all!! This casino will not be BUILT. The structures already exist - the footprint will not change. The hotel, which is in failing condition, will be renovated. The casino will be in an existing building (also in failing condition) that now contains a pool hall, video arcade and indoor go-cart track. This building would also undergo extensive renovations to blend in with the surrounding scenery. It converts a pool hall and video arcade into a casino - where's the problem. The building in question is not even visable from the road. Please see next comment...

Gburb Baseball Mom

August 14, 2010 - 3:28pm

The proposed site of the casino is privately held and zoned properly. And no if my neighbor sold their property and it was zoned appropriately for a strip club I would have a choice to deal with it or to move. Not to shut it down because I personally did not agree with it. And the heroes from 1863 already have 6000plus tax exempt acres here in Adams County. Again, how much do you want for more? Don't the people living and working here deserve jobs and some tax relief?

Bill N

August 14, 2010 - 1:13pm

It's odd that the Gburb Baseball Mom doesn't consider them "Our Heroes" -- fallen soldiers are simply "Your Heroes." Since in her world, private property rights are paramount, I suppose that eliminates all zoning. I'm sure she would be perfectly fine with her next door neighbors selling their home and using it as a strip joint. After all, it would provide jobs and raise tax revenue.

Gburb Baseball Mom

August 14, 2010 - 12:50pm

My heroes are the living people in Adams County now that are struggling to survive. Again, the Park is already 6000 acres. How much more would you like? And what price are you willing to pay for it since the land in question is PRIVATE PROPERTY. What you are espousing is that private land adjacent to a national park has less rights and protections simply because of its location. As for Commander Hill's objection to gaming near hallowed ground seems mighty funny that he has no problem with the gambling that goes on at the local Legion.

Bill N

August 14, 2010 - 12:28pm

Great idea!! Why not a Starbucks right next to the Iwo Jima Memorial? How about a theme park right in the center of Arlington National Cemetery? Those ideas can provide jobs and tax relief to the local residents! And the nerve of our heroes for dying in that location and taking up 6,000 acres of your precious tax-exempt land!

Gburb Baseball Mom

August 14, 2010 - 12:11pm

Your heroes already have 6000 acres of tax exempt land in Adams County. Why should the local populace be kept from jobs and tax relief so other people have a vacation spot?

Bill N

August 14, 2010 - 11:30am

Honor is not for sale! Selling out our heroes is disgraceful.

Gburb Baseball Mom

August 14, 2010 - 10:40am

It is not about greed. It is about jobs and tax relief. If this National Commander would have consulted the local Commanders he would have found out that this business is NOT on park land, but on privately owned, properly zoned land. It is going into an existing building that has house a business there for the last 40 years. The citizens of Adams County deserve the same rights as other US towns to grow and prosper. The so called "heritage tourism" for the Park is no longer paying the bills here. We need something else here to help our citizens have the same quality of life as other towns in the US. The casino will not be the end all be all but it will most definitely be a start!

Bill N

August 14, 2010 - 11:41am

Have you noticed that all the casino supporters are from Gettysburg and have a financial stake in the selling out of our War heroes - men who fought and gave their lives from all states in the Union and Confederacy? And don't buy the laugher from the Gettysburg post commander who says they are "neutral." The fact that there are commercial businesses that have been in the area for years is a sad reflection of the performance of the Gettysburg Legionnaires who allowed it to happen. A casino would just compound their tragic dereliction. Those who are offended by the National Commander's statement are simply in it for the bottom line. They should remember that "Honor is not for sale."

scouts87_90

August 13, 2010 - 11:49pm

Thousands of Americans from many states gave their lives in defense of the nation in 1863. Gettysburg belongs to the nation and not just Pennsylvania just as Bull Run battlefield does not only belong only to Virginia. It is distressing to read that members of the Legion are comfortable (God knoweth how!) with this blatant desecration of a most hallowed ground. I would like to ask these people to read the Legion's charter especially the following: "TO PRESERVE THE MEMORIES AND INCIDENTS OF OUR ASSOCIATIONS IN THE GREAT WARS" These lines make it clear that the Legion is right and just to take a stand against the casino. I would recommend those are comfortable with the casino reexamine their commitment to the Legion’s ideals and leave and join gamblers anonymous.

kaullman

August 13, 2010 - 4:29pm

Comrades Tschida and Sutton have up-close-and-personal views of the local economic impact of the casino project. They speak eloquently of the issue, and its divisive nature. National Commander Hill, has the responsibility to see this issue as a national one, with local impact. There have been times when each of us have had to make sacrifices for the nation. Most, if not all, would gladly do so again. I have only recently became a member of the Civil War Preservation Trust. My memories of Gettysburg include numerous visits during the summer of 1964, at the impressionable age of 7, a brief visit in 1978 and tours with my school-age daughters in 1998 and 1999. I did not find my perception diminished by subsequent visits. This project could change that. Gettysburg and the surrounding area remain a national treasure. Commander Hill has spoken (correctly in my view) on an issue with national repurcussions. We expect him do do so. Keith Ullman, Post 390, Wellington, FL

William Mellors

August 13, 2010 - 3:49pm

Please excuse me, but I see it as a disgrace for Commander Hill to make such a statement and take such a stand without consulting the local post. Is he aware that the local post have maintained neutrality because most have members on both sides of this issue? Is he aware that the local unemployment is the highest it has been in 25 years, and that many of those unemployed are veterans who would like to have some of the jobs that will be offered. Is he aware that we just had a local property assessment and some people will see a tax increase next year of as much as 300%, and some of these are veterans who could use the tax relief? Is he aware that this is an existing building with no change in the foot print, only improvements to the building and the saving of 100 jobs that currently exist there? Is he aware that this building can’t be seen from any place on the battlefield, or from any of the tour routes? Where did he get this crap that this casino is any place clos

eheiser

August 13, 2010 - 3:35pm

As a 42 year member of the Gettysburg AL Post 202 I am truly disgusted that our National Commander would take sides on a local issue and do so without contacting any local AL Posts. I would like to invite him to visit Post 202 (who have not taken a public stance) and get input from the members. As a 66 year lifelong resident of Gettysburg I have an opinion on the proposed Casino, but I would not use the American Legion to further that opinion. Our National Commander should use better judgement as to what and who is a "disgrace".

JimPaddock

August 13, 2010 - 2:34pm

I read that some veterans are thinking of leaving the Legion because of the national stance. Just want you to know that today I joined the American Legion because of your opposition to this national disgrace. The proposed Gettysburg Casino is an insult to our heritage and bad economic development. A recent article in the Hanover Evening Sun indicated that the casino with the million dollar guarantee would provide $52.50 in property tax relief to homeowners assuming none of the money was used for social costs. Unfortunately, for the casino to succeed, according to the casino investors, local residents have to lose $1284. at the casino. Most of this leaves the county as taxes to Harrisburg and investor returns. The diversion of this much money from the local economy will result in the loss of hundreds of jobs, making the whole thing a net drain on the local economy. This is a bad idea on so many levels.

kisforkelvin

August 13, 2010 - 1:36pm

Casinos still play to people's baser nature. You will attract low life's and the quality of life in your area with be impaired. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Gettysburg PA is not the place for a Casino. I live in California and all the Indians have 'em. Don't you have a nice Reservation you can DUMP a casino on? How about Hersey Park? General John Fulton Reynolds is a relative of mine, and died on Day 1. Hope you don't put a parking lot where he fell.

kisforkelvin

August 13, 2010 - 1:28pm

I feel this is as bad if not worse than putting a Mosque at Ground Zero! What happened to common sense? GREED is the answer. Hallowed Ground is what Lincoln called Gettysburg. HAS THAT CHANGED!?! I want someone's ASS to kick!

carrierguy

August 13, 2010 - 1:01pm

Catherine of Siena once said, "Every evil, harm and suffering in this life comes from the love of riches." It is very disappointing that the local post did not stand up to oppose this crass desecration of hallowed ground instead of relinquishing its honor for a few pieces of silver. No American would decry a community for its desire to bring in additional revenue, but Gettysburg is not just a local community - it is a sacred national shrine. If the area is that desperate for revenue, bring the Casino to the county---about 15 miles away from the battlefield. Kudos to National Commander Hill for standing up against this...and the scandal at Arlington!

Gettysburg Post Member

August 13, 2010 - 12:59pm

I can see that the American legion Commander has been duped into taking a stance on an issue that he knows nothing about. If I were not a lifetime resident of Gettysburg I would have read his article and been as irate as he seems to be. Fortunately I live here and know the true facts, not those being passed out by groups like the Civil War Preservation Trust and No Casino groups. The proposed site is an existing hotel that was built almost 40 years ago. It is NOT in the National Cemetery, as Commander Hill’s comment leads you to think As a member and Past Commander of the Gettysburg Legion I feel that our national organization should not have gotten involved in or at least not made any statements on an issue until they investigated the facts. The local post has remained neutral on this subject due to the sensitivity of the issue in the area and so should the National Commander. Flip Fazenbaker

Panama Marine

August 13, 2010 - 11:52am

With all due respect Commander Hill, you are "off base". You obviously have no knowledge of this proposal or the fact this endeavor is to be placed in an existing hotel which has been zoned commercial for 40 years, and it is not on the "National Battlefield". I think it is a "National Disgrace" that the American Legion would even take a political stand on something they know little about. Shame on you. When my membership is up for renewal, I will pass on the "biased" organization.

tom mckenney

August 13, 2010 - 11:20am

How can you presume to speak for the local posts and also the citizens of Adams County? You have managed to cheese off a lot of us veterans and there is talk about a bunch of sending our cards to you. I am a 67 year old Navy veteran and my wife and I own a home in Gettysburg that we are being taxed out of. We are getting to the point where we will have to sell our home of many years and move. For your information, 49% of the property owners in Gettysburg pay 100% of the taxes because of all of the non-profits that DO NOT pay tax. My wife and I are proud members of this club. We need tax relief and the casino will help us greatly with lower taxes, and more jobs. How can you or anyone that does not live here assess what we need or do not need. It is none of your business, and it certainly is none of National's business either. If you want to see disgrace, visit Steinwehr Ave (tourist section) and see what businesses are located there. The KFC is located ON Pickett's Charge.

Melissa A. Tschida

August 13, 2010 - 10:22am

. As a citizen of Adams County, I fully support Mr. LeVan's proposal to convert the Eisenhower Inn into a slots resort. The economic benefit that it potentially represents for Adams County is extremely desirable in this era of recession and 8% unemployment. The resort will provide sorely needed jobs which will, in turn, result in taxes paid to the Commonwealth and local municipalities. Additionally, a portion of the income earned by the casino will be provided to the municipal government at a time when state funding is being reduced. Commander Hill has spoken out of turn. It would honor the American Legion for him to either retract his comments or qualify them as personal and not the official stand of the American Legion. -Melissa A. Tschida, Commander Ira E. Lady American Legion Post 262 Biglerville, PA

Melissa A. Tschida

August 13, 2010 - 10:21am

Every veteran is an individual and entitled to his or her own opinion on the subject. I will not presume to speak for my Post (Ira E. Lady Memorial Post 262, Biglerville, PA) but I will speak for myself as a veteran, post commander, history teacher and citizen of Adams County. As a veteran, I served my country in order that individuals may pursue their dreams. As a post commander, I am neither for nor against the proposal. As a history teacher (with a full understanding of, and appreciation for, the Civil War victory won at Gettysburg) I say to the self-proclaimed "purists" who decry the plan as disgraceful or disrespectful, look at the myriad of tee-shirt and souvenir shops. Surely they were not part of the landscape during the Battle of Gettysburg. They exist for one reason--economic gain. Like it or not, "Gettysburg" is a tourist attraction with a full complement of retail establishments, not just a sacred battlefield and national cemetery. See next post.

Melissa A. Tschida

August 13, 2010 - 10:22am

In light of American Legion National Commander Clarence E. Hill's statement condemning the proposed casino project in Cumberland Township I feel compelled to issue a rebuttal. The American Legion is a non-partisan organization of United States veterans. While the proposal is not political, in and of itself, it has taken on political overtones within the community. If Commander Hill was speaking as a private citizen, he should make that clear. If he was speaking for the American Legion, he should have--at the very least--traveled to Adams County and consulted with local Post commanders and members to obtain a sense of where we stand on the issue. As comments are limited, I've had to divide my comments. Please see next one.

md

August 13, 2010 - 1:24am

the men who fought there were fighting for freedom. Let the people be free to do what they want. those men would not object to a new business being built there, i can guarantee you that...

Jim Sutton

August 12, 2010 - 7:03pm

As Past Commander of Gettysburg A.L Post 202, I was shocked to read the casino condemnation! It's obvious that the National Commander is not aware of the Adams County, PA economy and unemployment rate. He needs to visit and see the fast food restaurants, pizza shops, motels and hotels, souvenier shops, that directly border the National Cemetery, and the Field of Pickett's Charge. These sites were "desecrated" years ago by commercial entities. Our Post is neutral on the casino issue, as the national organization should be. No one loves the Battlefield or are more patriotic than our members. We decorate the National Cemetery every Christmas and many battlefield guides are AL members. The hotel (proposed casino site)was the base for 35,000 bikers here 3 weekends ago. No one complained about the noise pollution in the Park. The hangup is in the word "casino".

PaYank

August 13, 2010 - 1:31am

With all due respect to Mr. Sutton, saying that some past 'desecration' is support for future, more blatant desecration is shameful. As far as the 35,000 bikers go, I was in Gettysburg during a previous bikers' weekend and the constant, 24 hour, 3 day noise was deafening. I had heard reports that the constant vibration was actually loosening mortar on some historic buildings. We could not sleep. My complaints to the city government went unanswered. We have not been back since.

lindaleehouse

August 12, 2010 - 5:45pm

Whose lame-brained idea was this? Obviously it has to be someone who has no sense of partiotism. Is this another example of our politicians trying to grease their own palms?

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