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Chronicling untold veterans' stories

Browning-Wainscott first-place winner in Who Powers You contest


Courtesy of East Kentucky Power Cooperative 

It was the World War II veteran hat that gave only surface information about its wearer, Owen County native Jarl Lee Harris, that prompted Marlene Browning-Wainscott to start asking questions about his service. She’s been asking veterans about their stories ever since, now going for more than a decade.

Browning-Wainscott is the 2023 Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives Who Powers You contest first-place winner. An Owen Electric member, she received a $1,000 check for her decades-long work in interviewing and publishing the stories of veterans in Owen County.

“I was shocked and humbled because I knew there were so many other people nominated,” Browning-Wainscott said. “It’s a privilege to share the importance of preserving the history of the veterans. I truly appreciate Kentucky’s Touchstone Energy Cooperatives and Owen Electric for the opportunity.”

During that fateful first meeting with Harris, Browning-Wainscott learned that Harris, who passed away in 2020 at the age of 96, was more than just an ordinary citizen, or even an ordinary veteran.

“I really wish I had someone to share my story with,” Browning-Wainscott recalled Harris saying from her chance meeting with him more than a decade ago at her business in downtown Owenton.

“Jarl was known in this town as the ‘sign guy,’” she continued. “He was very artistic. He had painted signs for the historical society and the funeral home. He was the guy who went to McDonald’s to drink coffee. No one knew who he was in terms of a veteran. And I said I would love to talk.”

And they did.

Harris, the ‘Sign Guy of Owenton,’ was also an incredibly brave warrior. He was a Purple Heart recipient who spent time in the U.S. Army serving as a paratrooper and a member of the 101st Airborne Screamin’ Eagles. He was part of the D-Day invasion. He liberated Nazi concentration camps. The 101st participated in many battles during World War II, including the Battle of the Bulge. Later, Harris would serve in both the Korean and Vietnam wars.

The story told by Harris and written by Browning-Wainscott, was published in The News-Herald. But as it turned out, it was only the first veterans’ story she would tell. The reaction to the Sign-Guy-War-Hero’s tale was immediate.

Browning-Wainscott did not stop at story or two or three.

She started with the World War II veterans, then moved on to the Korean War veterans, and finally, the Vietnam veterans. She’s still conducting interviews to ensure that every person has a chance to preserve their history and tell their own story.

“I was fortunate to be someone they felt comfortable telling their story,” she said. “Many of them had stories that were difficult. And the stories are about preserving the veterans’ legacies so that young people, and the people in the community, understand that the guy walking into McDonald’s to get his coffee also served in three wars, received a Purple Heart, and jumped on D-Day so that people have a chance to say, ‘Thank you for your service.’”


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