Milton Area Veterans Memorial Dedication pays tribute to local heroes
MILTON—They were students, husbands and sisters who gave their lives to serve.
Some died in battle. Others were ravaged by disease in Army camps or suffered as prisoners of war.
Wendell Sisson wanted to honor the legacies of American service members, young and brave, who left home and did not return.
“I think we have a duty and responsibility to remember and honor those who have served our country,” Wendell Sisson wrote in an email.
He especially wanted to honor people who called Milton home. That's why he plunged into a search for the names of war victims with Milton roots.
Preserving local history came in the form of 73 names, now carved into the black granite stones of the expanded Milton Area Veterans Memorial. From Milton, Sisson found 39 veterans of the Civil War, four from World War I, 25 from World War II, two from the Korean War, and three from the Vietnam War.
“The search never ends,” Sisson wrote.
Milton will dedicate the newly expanded war memorial with a military ceremony at 2 p.m. Saturday in Veteran's Park at the corner of Hilltop Drive and East High Street.
The expansion was made possible by Sisson's idea, passionate planning and community donations, said Linda Clark, a member of the city parks and recreation commission.
Sisson, Milton, is a retired Milton High School history teacher. He and his wife lived 31 years in Europe, and they taught at the U.S. Department of Defense High School in Heidelberg, Germany.
He's spending in the Philippine Islands following the route of the Janesville 99—the 99 Janesville men with the 192nd Tank Battalion held as POWs during World War II.
“Over time, I think we developed an appreciation of the sacrifice that these people were making,” Sisson wrote.
Even the people who came home from war should be honored for the pieces of their lives they gave up, he said.
The memorial pays tribute to those people with more than 300 legacy bricks, commemorating many with Milton ties who have served in active duty.
“I didn't realize we had so many veterans in Milton. There are so many,” Clark said.
The project includes the addition of three granite monuments, 12 benches, landscaping and a patio and walkway of inscribed bricks. It adds to a monument built in 2012 by local Eagle Scout Wesley Helmeid.
The $70,000 expansion was paid for through public and private fundraising and volunteer efforts headed by the parks and recreation commission, local businesses and a core of Milton veterans.
Volunteer Richard Fry headed fundraising for the project that cost twice as much as originally estimated.
“You couldn't even put a price on what he's done here for the city and the veterans,” Clark said.
The city needed a monument like this, Fry said.
The memorial is the first that names Milton-area soldiers fallen in battle.
Fry, Milton, served in Vietnam and Cambodia. He was wounded in Cambodia in 1970 and received a Purple Heart and Army Commendation Medal.
He is this year's parade marshal for the Milton Independence Day Parade.
It's veterans such as Fry and those honored in the memorial who make the memorial dedication so special for Milton, Clark said.
“That's how military people are. They just do, and they do for others,” she said.
PURPLE HEART MONUMENT PLANNED
The $70,000 addition to the Milton Area Veterans Memorial won't be the last.
A Purple Heart monument dedicated to soldiers who received the honor is planned for 2015.
“There's a vast number of Purple Hearts in the local area,” Richard Fry said.
Fry is a Purple Heart recipient, wounded while serving in Cambodia on May 24, 1970.
Fry and the American Legion Post 367 are heading the effort to add the Purple Heart Monument. Fry had a lead role in the $70,000 memorial expansion.
The planned monument would be red granite 5 feet wide and 4 feet tall, typical of Purple Heart monuments, Fry said. It would be installed on the patio's east side to the right of the three black granite stones.
Post 367 plans fundraising through January 2015.
A Gold Star Mothers monument would be installed opposite the Purple Heart monument. It would be dedicated to the mothers and wives of those who served and lost their lives, Fry said.
“They all deserve a monument,” he said.
More engraved bricks also will be added to the memorial.