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Friday

July 2014

25

Oconomowoc Veterans Memorial Park is permanent way to say thanks

City of Oconomowoc - How do you repay a veteran for their service?

A community group committed to a project to honor those who served our country knows the answer.

"We're so indebted, there is no possible way to pay them back," said Kurt Schrang, an organizer of the Honor and Valor group that is seeking to recognize those who served with the newly renamed Veterans Memorial Park.

Previously known as Memorial Park, and Library Park before that, plans call for using the one acre of green space bordering Lac La Belle to reflect gratitude and appreciation for the sacrifice veterans made.

"We want to rebuild it in respect to the five service branches of the armed forces," Schrang explained.

The cause has been simmering for some time.

Schrang recalls that in the early 1990s the park became Memorial Park, and World War II veterans had a memorial there.

A couple years ago, he and community advocate Mac Dorn were talking about the subject as plans were being made for the city's new Community Center, adjacent to City Beach.

"There's a WWI monument at City Beach and a Vietnam/Korean War Memorial; people were just not recognizing what these were," Schrang said.

And so, a plan was born to unite the memorials and to enhance the emphasis on veterans.

Veterans Memorial Park

"We got focused at the end of 2010. We met with city officials, and we met with representatives from each veteran organization," explained Dorn.

"It's now officially called Veterans Memorial Park," he said, of the name change that was approved by city leaders earlier this year.

Dorn and Schrang met with all the service organizations and auxiliaries to receive input for the project.

"The veterans' groups expressed their opinions, and I think we got some good representation from each," he said.

Schrang agreed.

"They are very modest but proud of what they have done for the country," he added.

The project is estimated to take between 18 and 24 months to complete. Renderings feature an archway entry to the park; in the center will be a water fountain surrounded by a brick or stone circle with a pentagon star shape surrounding that.

"The star represents the five service organizations," Schrang explained.

The five points within the star will encompass the crest of each branch of service, and the military organization's flag will stand there as well.

Organizers say the metal arch that looms above the star represents unity. Columns at each point of the star signify strength, and on top of the arch is an eagle, the symbol of American freedom, keeping guard.

Highlights of the plan include reflection areas and a memorial for POW/MIAs with a black stone that will have the American flag engraved in it.

In addition to collecting the WWI and Vietnam/ Korean War memorials from City Beach, the new park will feature a memory brick area where people can purchase a brick in memory, honor or gratitude to veterans.

"The intention is to sell 1,000 and incorporate them into a walkway," Schrang explained.

Fundraiser set

The project comes with a significant price tag. Schrang estimated the cost of the revamped park to be more than $400,000.

"The project is expensive, but not near the price they paid," he said.

A private cocktail party held earlier this month helped kick off the fundraising to benefit the park.

A broader appeal is coming up Feb. 2 when the group hosts a fundraiser at Olympia Resort.

The $50 ticket provides an evening featuring live music, a silent and live auction, hors d'oeuvres and a cash bar. Auction items are being sought for the fundraiser.

"Big Al and the Hi-Fi's are coming out of retirement for it.

They're excited for it," Schrang said.

Tickets are available at First Bank Financial Centre or online at www.honorandvalor.org

Cash contributions, sponsorships and major donors are also being sought for the project. For more information, or to make a donation, send an email to Megan Welsh at megangwelsh@gmail.com or Maribeth Bush at mbush@wi.rr.com.

Next steps

"This is a real community thing. It includes everybody. No matter what they do, who they are, what they have done or what they will do, it is a result of someone out there protecting our freedom," Schrang explained.

He hopes the community will join in the effort to pay homage to those who gave of themselves to serve the nation.

"I had a presentation at the VFW (regarding the plans for the park) and a guy in his 90s grabbed my arm and just said 'thanks. This is great,' " he said.

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