Monday, August 17, 2015

Post 254 building new memorial to honor veterans

JOHNSTOWN INDEPENDENT





American Legion Post 254 in Johnstown is building what members believe will be the largest veterans memorial in the area.
The memorial, adjacent to the post at 180 W. Maple St., will feature three double-sided walls, reaching 42 feet wide and 9 feet tall, with four taller concrete posts -- two as end caps and two connecting the three walls. There will be two painted bald eagles on the end caps and sand stones on all of the posts. Two new flagpoles also will be installed.
"It's pretty impressive. It's not just a little wall," post Commander Rick Petersen said.
It's been a long-term project for Post 254, he said.
Three years ago, when the American Legion was at 44 S. Main St., members expressed a desire to give something back to the community.
At first, Petersen said, members considered installing a memorial sidewalk, but they decided a sidewalk could deteriorate whereas vertical walls would last much longer.
"We're hoping the old phrase, 'If you build it, they will come,' will be true about this memorial," he said.
Petersen would not disclose how much the memorial cost to build but would say it was "mostly covered by very generous donations" from benefactors who will be publicly recognized during the dedication.
Post members sold commemorative bricks for $75 each that can be engraved with veterans' names, their years of service and what branch of the military they served in.
"Selling those bricks to community members covered about half of the cost. The other half was funded through benefactors that I knew," Petersen said.
He said the walls could hold 1,196 engraved bricks and it could take up to six years to fill all of the available spaces.
Post 254 members came up with the unique design of the memorial, but they hired a local contractor to help with the design process and to assist in finding workers to build it.
The Wall of Honor footer was dug May 2, followed shortly by laying of the foundation blocks. On Aug. 1, the heavy stonework began and is still ongoing, Petersen said.
He said placing the two flagpoles and eagles and setting the bricks will be next. Benches will be installed last.
This summer's rainy weather put construction about a month behind, he said, but he hopes the work will be about 80 percent completed in time for the official dedication ceremony at 2 p.m. Aug. 22.
Petersen said he expects about 400 people, including Mayor Sean Staneart, to attend. Purple Heart recipients from throughout Ohio will be honored. A flag-retirement ceremony is planned for 3 p.m. The old flag is expected to be lowered while the new one simultaneously is raised. The event will conclude with a picnic.