Group seeks to expand veterans wall

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March 24, 2011 - 12:00 AM

Nearly 22 years after they first proposed honoring Allen County’s veterans with a memorial wall, a group of local residents has hopes to expand it.
Members of the Veterans Day Committee met Wednesday to discuss the Veterans Memorial Wall on the south side of the courthouse square. The wall has room for about 500 more names before more window displays would be needed. Name plaques list more than 6,000 veterans from Allen County. Some date back to the Spanish-American War of 1898.
Committee members noted that about 1,000 names have been added since the wall was originally completed in 1995.
The group wants to add two panels to each end of the semi-circular display.
“We figure it will cost about $5,000 for each window,” committee member Alfred Link said. “We’d really like to get about $20,000 so we can proceed.”
“At the bare minimum, we’d like to put up two windows, but we’d just as soon have four,” committee member Frank Niemeyer added. “But we also understand that money is tight for people right now.”
To accommodate the expansion, a series of flags — denoting the five branches of the U.S. armed forces, plus another to recognize prisoners of war — will be relocated from the side of the wall to its rear.
Assisting with the project once again is Larry Robertson of Gas, who — like the Veterans Day Committee members — was a key player in building the wall.
Committee members noted that raising the funds for this project may be more difficult than generating the initial $40,000 to build the wall.
“When we had our first meeting to discuss building the wall, we had 80 people here,” Link said, recalling that group’s inaugural meeting in June 1989. “Tonight, we have five.”
It took the committee about five years to raise the $40,000, allowing construction to begin in November 1994. The wall was dedicated during Veterans Day ceremonies a year later.
That bit of history leads to the committee’s second request: more participation.
“Our members will eventually start to get mature,” Link joked, noting the youngest of four in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting was 70. “We’d really love to see some younger members get involved.”
The group, which also plans the annual Veterans Day activities for Iola and Allen County each year, meets the third Wednesday of each month at Link’s home.
“This really is Allen County’s wall, and people have always been supportive,” Wanda Lytle said.
Donations for the wall can be sent to Lytle at 311 North St., Iola, KS 66749 or Link at 623 S. Sycamore St. in Iola.

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