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Efforts begin to expand county war memorial

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

BENTON -- The first step in updating Scott County's memorial to its servicemen who died in combat will be coming up with a design.

Scott County commissioners met with those willing to work on the project Monday evening at the Scott County Courthouse.

Commissioners called the meeting because they would like to add Scott County residents who died in the wars that followed World War I - World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War - to the existing memorial.

"Anybody who gave their life for our freedom should be on there," Presiding Commissioner Martin Priggel said. "The biggest thing right now is how to design it. ... We hoped the veteran organizations would give us an idea of what they'd like to do."

The memorial, which is located in front of the courthouse, is presently engraved with the three types of military personnel who fought in World War I - sailors, soldiers and Marines - along with the years the United States took part, 1917-1918.

"Since we have one out here, it needs to be updated," agreed Melvin Hamm, post adjutant for the American Legion Post 369 in Benton.

As far as gathering names to include on the memorial, "I'm sure once you get a design, you can get the word out," he said.

Commissioner Jamie Burger said an update for the memorial is long overdue.

He said he has seen a lot of people stop and photograph the monuments in front of the courthouse. "I think it would be another thing that would draw people to look at it," Burger said.

"I think we need to get some pictures of other war memorials in the area," said Blair Moran of the Sikeston American Legion Post, "and from that, try to come up with a design for Scott County."

Commissioners suggested a design committee be formed and asked if Moran would be the chairman.

In addition to Moran, who agreed to serve as chairman, design committee members will include Larry Floyd, commander of American Legion Post 114 in Sikeston; Norman Brant, a Scott City councilman; and Joy Whitten, Don Pigg, Teresa Taylor and Vicki LeGrand from the recently-formed Scott County Master Gardeners.

"This is our first project," Whitten said.

Burger said he would like to see representatives from all the veteran organizations within the county participate as well as other civic groups such as the Elks.

"I don't think we'll have a problem getting people involved," Commissioner Dennis Ziegenhorn said.

Floyd agreed to work on coming up with some sketches of a design. "I'll probably need a couple weeks to get some designs up," he said.

Moran suggested Veterans Day, Nov. 11, would be an ideal day to formally dedicate an updated memorial.

As far as gathering names, he said there is a database of servicemen killed in action and missing in action and he will contact Rep. Jo Ann Emerson's office to get that information.

"I know World War II , Korean and Vietnam - we can get that," Moran said.

He estimated 16-18 Scott County residents died during the Vietnam War and 10-12 died in Korea.

Moran said Scott County has not yet lost any residents to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Hopefully we won't, but you never know," he said.

Floyd said it will be difficult to determine how many county residents gave their lives during the Civil War, adding that there were probably some from Scott County on both sides of the conflict.

Priggel said from what he has heard from people in the county, there would be no objection to using some county funding for the project if needed.

"I think money is the least of the worries," Brant said.

With a goal of dedicating an updated memorial on Nov. 11, Floyd agreed time will be more of a concern than finding enough donations to fund the project.

Burger said the county has some of the same paint that was used to renovate the courthouse's exterior so they can repaint the memorial to match.

Committee members also discussed the need to put a barrier around the memorial to keep skateboarders off.

Those gathered agreed they would like to preserve what is already in place.

The goal is "cleaning it up, placing the names," Ziegenhorn said. "Not remodeling -- refurbishing.

"I think what we have out there is pretty unique," Burger said.

Moran suggested a library archive search should be conducted to find out when the World War I monument was built and dedicated.

"We'll go through the courthouse records," Burger said.

Burger also said the county will send a letter to American Legion and VFW posts in the county to request input from them during future meetings.

The next meeting for the project is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. June 5.

"That's the day before D-Day - 6 June," Moran noted.

"We just want to show our appreciation for those that died to preserve our freedom," Priggel said. "I think everybody agrees we need to do something for these people."

"People should know who these people are," Ziegenhorn said. "This is important to all of us."