A new 'Fallen Heroes' group seeks backing for memorial

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by BYRON HARRIS

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WFAA

Posted on August 23, 2011 at 11:08 PM

NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES

Last year, a News 8 investigation of the United States Fallen Heroes Foundation found that the Kennedale-based organization was not a real charity.

The Texas Attorney General started an investigation into whether the group's leader was keeping donations for his own use.

Its then-chairman — Walter Evans Coleman — was fined $160,000 in penalties and restitution for diverting foundation monies for his own use.

A year ago, the new chairman of the USFHF, Larry Summers, said the foundation would be "restructured as it should have been Day One." The Foundation procured 501(c)(3) charity status from the Internal Revenue Service.

The new Web site of the United States Fallen Heroes Foundation depicts a monument for all veterans of American conflicts since 1991 who have died of injuries trauma and suicide.

The site of the monument is unknown. The foundation lost its option for a monument site with the city of Kennedale.

But there are still problems with disclosure.

New USFHF chairman Larry Summers did not disclose the failure of a for-profit monument business of his own.

Summers' former business, Affordable Monuments of Kennedale, sold headstones to the families of veterans like Grady Justice. His daughter, Julie Justice, paid Summers thousands of dollars for headstones 18 months ago and still hasn't received anything.

"The USFHF needs to be shut down," Justice said. "Totally shut down."

Canceled checks show Justice paid $4,300 for a headstone for her father — a World War II veteran — in January and June of 2010.

The stones have never been placed.

“If he is not standing by his word in providing my family with a headstone that we ordered over a year ago, I can’t imagine that he’s properly handling the money that people are daily putting into his Web site,” Justice said.

The USFHF Web site says:

Each Fallen Hero will be honored with an 8”x11” plaque with the photo of the hero. The plaque will also include their name, rank, branch of military service, unit designation, hometown and date of death. These hero plaques will be displayed on walls of honor as the focal point of the Fallen Heroes Memorial.

An artist’s depiction shows the proposed monument as a kind of vertical cemetery.

Stone monuments are what Sam Masner at Memorial Monuments in Fort Worth deals with every day. Masner says several of Larry Summers' former customers have contacted him for help.

“We had people claim that the stones were not produced; that money was issued and the stones were never given out to the cemeteries," Masner said.

Summers lives in Kennedale, at an address also listed as the headquarters of the United States Fallen Heroes Foundation. Summers declined to talk to News 8.

The USFHF Web site does not directly ask for money; it says sponsors will be honored in the “Hall of Recognition,” which apparently will be adjacent to the Memorial, but its location is not stated on the Web site.

E-mail bharris@wfaa.com

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