Wednesday, August 15, 2001

Vets memorial

Repaying debt long overdue

        Every veteran knows freedom isn't free. It carries a terrible price paid in time, resources and lives.

        In Mason, plans are in the works to let area residents contribute their fair share to the cost of freedom.

        The Warren County boom town is building a $19 million municipal center. Next to it will be the Mason Veterans Memorial.

        The memorial's design committee — made up of city officials and residents — believes private donations should pay for the structure. In a small way, the donations will link the citizens of today with the sacrifices made by yesterday's veterans.

        “If people pay for it directly, they'll have a better appreciation for those who came before them and served this nation,” said longtime Mason booster and design committee chairwoman Cay Steinhauer.        

Family concerns

        Cay knows public service firsthand. She became Mason's first councilwoman in 1973 and hopes to return to her old job after November's election.

        Her late husband, Norb, fought in World War II. Their sons — Ron and Steve — served, respectively, during the Vietnam and Gulf wars in the Coast Guard and Marines.

        Cay also knows Mason's record for honoring veterans is spotty.

        The present city building once displayed a plaque listing the names of area soldiers in uniform during the Vietnam War.

        “One day,” she said, “that plaque just disappeared.

        “Some fool must have thought those names weren't important anymore.”

        Cay vows that “the new memorial won't disappear.”

        There's little chance of that happening. Cay helped present the memorial's design and funding plans to Mason's City Council Monday night. Both sets of plans stand on solid ground.

        Enclosed by a low wall, the memorial will feature eight monuments. Seven represent significant wars in American history. The eighth stands as the hope for peace. Names of area veterans will be placed in a time capsule at the memorial. A “wall of tears,” water cascading down black granite, will honor the lives lost.        

Field of glory

        The memorial's landscape will feature stands of tall ornamental grass. Cay told me “they'll be like amber waves of grain.”

        How appropriate. The site for the memorial — where today piles of rich, dark soil stand as tall as a house — is on land that once belonged to the Westerkamm family farm. One of the farm's crops was wheat.

        Cay believes City Council was favorably impressed by Monday's presentation. She's right.

        “The consensus at the meeting is that this is an attractive concept,” said assistant city manager Eric Hansen. “It should go forward.”

        The next step in this citizens' initiative is getting a price tag for the memorial. That should be ready by the end of September.

        Cay guesses the memorial “will cost at least $200,000 to $300,000.”

        I'm guessing Mason's good citizens, private and corporate, will come through. They should. Their donations are partial payments on a debt that's long overdue.

        There wouldn't be a Mason. And it wouldn't be booming with big new homes and shiny new office buildings without the men and women who served this country in war and peace.

       Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.


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