By Jim Misunas
LARNED — David Zecha believes every veteran has a story to tell.
It’s Zecha’s responsibility to review the list of submitted names recommended to be listed on the Pawnee County All Veterans Memorial at Doerr-Vernon Park.
“You try and do as much research as you can,” Zecha said. “I’ve met some wonderful people and heard very interesting stories about veterans’ service.”
Sections of 5-by-6-foot black granite wall will list names on the front and back. So far, Zecha has about 3,500 names that he’s documented. There is no fee to be listed on the wall. Anyone with a connection to Pawnee County is eligible to be listed.
Zecha has compiled a spreadsheet for veterans from the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean Conflict and veterans who have served since that time. About 1,200 served in WWII and 600 more in the Civil War and WWI. He’s used newspaper listings and VFW and American Legion records to compile the list.
“That’s what I’ve been doing the past seven months,” he said. “The VFW and American Legion has posted lists on their walls, so that’s been helpful.”
The walls will be erected in the next few months.
Zecha said it’s harder to gather names from more recent servicemen who have served their country, but not in a particular war or conflict.
Eakin Concrete started the original concrete work. The granite work and engraving by S.I. Memorials of Parsons is transported to Larned.
“The Larned project was pretty straight-forward,” said Gary Moser. “We’ve been doing these projects for 20 years. Some of the Pawnee County veterans had seen our work and liked it.”
The company had our employees working last week in Larned. Moser said the granite benches, secured by epoxy, are a popular item.
S.I. Memorials is a division of Suhor Industries, Inc., a leading supplier to the funeral industry for 75 years. The Parsons facility has more than 100 employees and serves as the hub for all S.I. Memorials monument production. S.I. Memorials has installed work in Dodge City, Pittsburg and Wichita. A unique Miners’ Memorial is located in Immigrant Park in Pittsburg.
More than $150,000 has been invested in the Pawnee County All-Veterans Memorial that has been planned since 2008. The Pawnee County All Veterans Memorial will honor those who served honorably from Pawnee County and the surrounding area. All veterans with ties to Pawnee County are welcome.
“It’s a fantastic feeling to see the progress after five years of working on it,” said co-organizer Dennis Wilson. “We went to different memorials and researched everything. The Pawnee County Memorial is unique. There is not another place like it.”
Wilson said he encourages anyone who wants to list a veteran to contact a committee member.
“The main thing we’re working on is anyone from Pawnee County who has served in the military from the Korea to the present,” he said.
Wilson said paving prices are locked in until the end of the year, when the cost may be higher.
“The Veterans Memorial will honor those in Pawnee County who has served their country,” said Terry Harris, co-organizer.
The Pawnee County All-Veterans Memorial will be constructed of black and gray granite with engraved names of veterans.
Granite benches will provide a quiet place to reflect on the sacrifices area veterans have made. The walkway is lined with gray granite brick pavers, which will be lettered with the name of a donor, a veteran or a brief tribute in honor of the donation.
The city of Larned has provided land, labor and equipment for maintenance. Donations are tax deductible.
“We appreciate all the support we have received. Everything has been done with private donations. We’ve had numerous businesses step up and contribute,” Zecha said.
Original prices for pavers ranged from $100 for 4-by-4; $250 for 8-by-8; and $500 for 12-by-12 brick pavers. Permanent granite benches have also been purchased for engraving.
The Pawnee County Veterans Memorial Committee is being coordinated by the American Legion Riders.
For information, contact Kyle Beckwith, 620-285-6702; Terry Harris, 620-910-7998; Dennis Wilson, 620-910-7900; or David Zecha, 620-285-1128.