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Friday, Aug. 29, 2014

Southeast Missouri community strives to creat a special memorial to honor those who served

Sunday, July 8, 2007

(Photo)
Leo and Sue Martin and Jackie Barker arrange how the flags will look at the veterans memorial in East Prairie.
EAST PRAIRIE -- For the past few years, the Alumni Association of East Prairie High School has worked to restore the old high school on Washington Street . Renovations have been made to the 1920s building to make it appear the same way it was in its golden days.

Now the group is extending its efforts to the outside of the building, where they plan to build a veterans memorial.

"We think we owe it to our veterans," said Dean Yount, a member of the class of 1953.

Sue Martin, a member of the class of 1958, agreed. "We want to honor our veterans, we think it's time for Americans to stand up," she said. The memorial will exhibit pride, respect and patriotism in East Prairie and Mississippi County as a whole, she said.

The idea for a memorial stemmed from other projects the association has sponsored, such as the inclusion of a military room in the refurbished school, a Veterans Day program and the placement of flags on veterans graves, Martin said.

The memorial will be modeled after one in Tunica, Miss., that a committee, including Martin and her husband, Leo, viewed.

"It's an oval that will hold 5,000 bricks," described Alberta Bishop, a member of the class of 1952. "In the middle of it will be the statue of three military persons."

A U.S. flag and those representing each branch of the military will fly, and the memorial will eventually include landscaping and benches, Bishop said.

Right now, downtown East Prairie is host to several stones signifying past wars. The committee has received permission to move those to its memorial, Martin said. There will also be bronze plaques by the flags giving a brief description of each war the U.S. has participated in.

The Tunica memorial was financed by gambling profits. Since there aren't any casinos in East Prairie, the committee knew they would have to raise the money.

The project will be done in phases while money is raised through fundraisers and donations. The first phase, the laying of bricks, is set to begin this fall. Right now, committee members are selling bricks in honor of veterans. "We have been selling bricks like crazy," Bishop said. "We're taking donations and selling bricks, night and day."

For $30, someone can purchase a brick for any veteran -- living or deceased -- and have their name, branch of service and years served engraved on it. Families who want their relatives' bricks together are encouraged to place orders together, Yount added.

Committee members kept the price of the bricks low to keep it affordable. "There's some people that are retired and on fixed incomes and can't do without medicine or groceries just to buy a brick," Yount said. "We wanted everyone to be able to buy one."

Something unique about the memorial is that it is for living and deceased members. "I don't know of one that's anywhere near here that has both the living and deceased," she said.

Martin agreed, and said the project has gone over well with local and past residents. "It has brought back a lot of families," she said. "We have sold a lot of bricks to families we haven't heard from in years."

Bricks have been ordered for veterans of several wars, dating back to the Spanish-American and Civil wars. That helps families remember and children learn. "Several people have said 'When our children come to East Prairie, they'll be able to see their heritage," Martin remarked.

It will be a long road until the memorial is complete. "We've got our work cut out for us," Bishop said. "But we're a determined bunch."

But the work is enjoyable. "It's not like a job," Martin said. "And if our dream comes true, it will be outstanding. You rarely see a project of this magnitude in a small town."