Thursday morning, the Lancaster Fire Department was out in force as an honorary escort for a delivery. The fire trucks were leading any individual back into the city, no state-winning sports team, as the custom has been many times before. This escort was for a group of multi-ton carved granite stones which have engraved on them nearly 2,800 names of the men and women who served in the Armed Forces from this area.
Three days after this parade, the Lancaster Area Veterans Memorial will be dedicated on Sunday, with the presentation to begin at 1 p.m.
“It feels really good,” Mary Peterson, one of the volunteers on the project, said about the impending completion.
It was a project that had been in the works for many years, something first dreamt up by the members of the American Legion Auxiliary, who had come up with an initial design for a new memorial that would have the names of residents who had served, and began selling bricks to help pay for the project.
It was in 2010 when at a city Park and Recreation Committee meeting - coincidentally the same meeting a Boy Scout approached the city about placing benches around the existing monument - that the Auxiliary members asked the city if they would be interested in a new memorial at the park. One of the people in attendance at that meeting was Dorothy Eck, who has spent the past five years watching the project grow from that initial request into the monument being dedicated this weekend.
“The main thing is that the veterans feel they are all being recognized,” Eck stated. “They each have their name written down for prosperity,” she said of the stone tablets, which also have etchings that signify the history of the Armed Forces in this country, as well as two versions of the Pledge of Allegiance - the current version as well as the one that was repeated by those who served during World War II.
Eck was looking forward to the weekend ceremony, and hoped it allowed for those who served to share stories of their time in uniform.
One of those veterans is Rodger Irish, who has been a part of the project for several years. “A lot of veterans have been impatient, wanting to see this completed,” Irish noted, feeling that the dedication will be like a ‘burst of sunlight’ on the cool October day.
“Its been overdue,” Irish said, who takes pride in the fact that all of the materials that have gone into the monument have either been quarried or produced in the United States. “People really stood united on that,” Irish said of the idea, which increased the price of the project, as opposed to getting stone quarried in China, but he felt that was also responsible for a large number of donors coming forward, cutting in half the time they have estimated for raising the money.
In addition to that, Irish is most proud that there is now a monument with his brother, Dave’s, name on it. Rodger’s brother served in three different conflicts, and died a few years ago, and so it is a special moment for Rodger to mark his brother’s service.
Another veteran looking forward to the day is Roger Reed, who headed up the committee that worked on the project.
“Its such a wonderful committee,” Reed said of the volunteers that participated in the project.
Reed noted that those who attend should look at the etchings that are on the face of each stone that depict moments in military history. Reed said those etchings, chosen by the committee and carved by Lorinda Dull, tell so much about the those who served, and the moments they witnessed. There are milestones, like the Memphis Belle bomber flying its full list of missions during World War II, the recognition of women in service, up to today’s role in combat and air operations, to items like the roles canines have played in the military.
“There is a wealth of knowledge there,” Reed said of the research done to come up with each, which also display an American flag.
“Its been a labor of love to show our support,” Martha Bausch added, one of the volunteers with the project. She noted how much the committee worked well together. “The way people pulled together, to make this happen.”
“People were so willing to donate for the project,” Peterson added about the donors.
The event will take place in Memorial Park, starting at 1 p.m. Because the presentation and audience will set up on the roadway, traffic through the park will be stopped from noon to until 3 p.m.
Slated on the schedule will be the formal raising of the flags, a release of balloons to represent each and every of the 2,785 names on the monument. Also schedule to appear is Brig. Gen. Joe Brandemuehl, as well as a presentation by Veterans Service Officer Tim Murphy.
Refreshments will be served during the event. Tents have been arranged in case of poor weather.
In addition to the delivery of the stones on Thursday, work has been going on at the park this week, also reinstalling the original memorial, which was cleaned.
The project came a long way since that initial brochure, with the design being very different than the initial sketch on those first brochures. “We ended up with something that is just gorgeous,” Bausch said.