WOKO Morning Roundup host “Wild” Bill Sargent, broadcasting from the tiny landing at the top of the Macdonough Monument in front of Plattsburgh’s city hall.
With a hardy GOOD MORNING PLATTSBURGH!, WOKO’s Wild Bill Sargent kicked off the Drive for the DAV from the top of Plattsburgh’s Macdonough Monument.
The Morning Roundup radio host climbed the corrugated steel steps well before daybreak to prepare for the show. This is the third time Sargent and the WOKO team have raised money for a van for the disabled veterans of Clinton and Essex County.
The federal government mandates when these vans are to be taken out of service, but does not give funding to replace them. That’s where WOKO stepped in.
“Bill has always been committed to the cause of veterans,” said WOKO Station Manager Steve Pelkey from the base of the monument. “This area has been hit hard by deployments. This is a way for us to give back.”
They chose Sept 11 to do their fund-raiser because it’s the anniversary of both the terrorist attacks of 2001, and the 1814 victory of Commodore Thomas Macdonough at the Battle of Plattsburgh, where he turned back the invading British army on Lake Champlain.
“We live in a tough area. It’s very rural, and these veterans often live far away from the care that they need and deserve,” Pelkey said.
Assisting Sargent with the broadcast was his Morning Roundup co-host Rod Hill, Pelkey and overnight DJ Captain Guy Ford.
Sargent communicated with Rod Hill, and later DJ C.K. Coin, who were at the WOKO studio in Burlington, by means of an open stream from his i-pod in order to overcome a ten second delay on the Plattsburgh end of the broadcast.
The first year Sargent climbed the monument the temperature was minus three degrees. This year, record high temperatures into the nineties have been forecast. By 6:30 a.m. Sargent had already sweat through his shirt. But for Sargent, it’s all worth it.
“Watching the sun rise over the City of Plattsburgh, I’m already getting that feeling, the feeling of this community coming together to give back to it’s veterans,” said Sargent.
With the unseasonable warm front which came into the Champlain Valley the previous night, came the threat of severe thunderstorms.
“That’s the only thing that will get me down from here,” said Sargent: “Lightning.”
Below the monument, a small army of volunteers from the Clinton County Veteran’s Service Agency, many of them disabled veterans themselves, proudly wearing hats denoting their service in Vietnam or Korean, collected money from passing motorists. By 7 a.m. the line of traffic waiting to donate money stretched beyond the block in both directions. Plattsburgh city police and firefighters also assisted with traffic control.
WOKO also had two dedicated phone lines for call-in donations.
For donations over $100, Sargent would wave an American flag out the tiny observation window and sound an air-horn. The first donation to reach WOKO by phone was for $500.
He hoped to be down, with nearly $20,000 raised for the new van, by 2 p.m.. However, as the clock ticked past 4 p.m., and with storm clouds approaching, they had raised in the neighborhood of $16,000, still slightly short of their goal.
Then Plattsburghburgh businessmen Bill and Brian McBride of McBride Subaru stepped up to the plate with a double barreled donation. They pledged to make up whatever the shortfall was between what had been raised and the $20,000, and also to provide the new van at a drastically reduced rate through their dealership. Effectively, between the cash raised and the donation on van, WOKO raised $30,000 for the DAV.
“They’re great guys, a great family, and they wanted to be a part of it,” Pelkey said. "It’s really nice to bring people together to help those who served them.”
The van will be built at the factory according to specific DAV specs, then delivered to the Clinton County Veteran’s Service Agency.