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Road signs added for Pawnee Memorial
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From left, volunteers David Zecha, Dennis Wilson, Terry Harris and Kyle Beckwith celebrate the unveiling of signage for the Pawnee County All Veterans Memorial on the west side of Larned at Doerr-Vernon Park. The Kansas Department of Transportation and Lansings Kansas Correctional Industries assisted with the sign. - photo by JIM MISUNAS Great Bend Tribune


LARNED — Thanks to employees from Kansas Department of Transporation, signage was been placed along K-156 for the Pawnee County All Veterans Memorial.
Signage was unveiled by volunteers Dennis Wilson, David Zecha, Kyle Beckwith and Terry Harris. KDOT highway supervisor Jeremy McDonald supervised the installation of the signs.
The signs were constructed by inmates for Lansing’s Kansas Correctional Industries, a self-supporting program of the Kansas Department of Corrections which is composed of state and private prison industries.
The sparkling memorial is a testament to the persistence of members of the American Legion Riders Post No. 106. The Pawnee County All Veterans Memorial is dedicated to all servicemen who served their country at Doerr-Vernon Park.
Wilson and Zecha worked with fellow Legion members Kyle Beckwith and Terry Harris since 2008 to get the job accomplished. More than $200,000 financed the project through donations and sales of bricks, garden benches and park benches.
“This is the most gratifying project I’ve been involved in,” Wilson said. “It’s a lasting memorial to Pawnee County veterans. Pawnee County Veterans deserved a place to recognize their service.”
Wilson believed Zecha had the toughest task of researching and double checking for accuracy of names associated with military service with ties to Pawnee County.
“This is the best project I’ve worked on,” Zecha said. “It’s something that needed to be done for Pawnee County.”
Zecha enjoys reading about military history and researched past lists of military servicemen. Past newspaper issues listed World War I and World War II servicemen along with the Korean Conflict. He visited Pawnee County’s cemeteries and received help from the American Legion and VFW posts.
“It was really gratifying to hear family stories and see the sparkle in their eyes when they talked about their loved ones,” Zecha said. “Serving their country is part of each family’s history. My wife and I both served in the Air Force, so we understand what that means.”
Slowly but surely, Zecha has been able to verify 3,800 names. He was able to preserve valuable historical information. Eight more names are ready to be added to the Pawnee County All Veterans Memorial.
“The best part was how grateful people were that their relatives were included,” Zecha said. “The compliments we received made us feel super. It means a lot that people were included.”
The Pawnee County All Veterans Memorial is crafted out of black and gray granite and engraved with the names of Veterans. Pavers are engraved with names of donors, veteran, or a brief tribute in honor of the donation. SI Memorials of Parsons did the granite design work.
Major contributors are recognized on an engraved plaque. Contributing more than $10,000 were Straub International, Chad Eakin and Jim and Suzan Haynes.
“As the song says, it’s a long and winding road,” said Wilson. “It felt great to get the community involved and get everyone together for a project of this magnitude.”
Wilson said the city of Lartned donated the property and in-kind donations helped pay for the project. The ongoing project will continue to add names in the future.
“It exceeded our expectations,” Wilson ssid. “This proves if you want to get something accomplished, dedicated people will get it done.”
Major contributors are recognized on an engraved plaque. Contributing more than $10,000 were Straub International, Chad Eakin and Jim and Suzan Haynes.
Donations of more than $5,000 were provided by Kyle and Tamara Beckwith, the Brenner family, Modern Woodmen of America, Pawnee Valley Community Hospital and Innovative Livestock Services.
Contributing in excess of $2,500 were Merleen Baird, Joseph and Jean Simmons and Kevin and LeAnn Simmons, Pete Penka family, Froetschner family, Mrs. Jack Delaney, Larden Garden Club, Pawnee County Co-op, Derek and Beth Slack, Barstow family, Jim and Tammy Froetschner and Troy and Tamie Madden.
Donations of $1,000 were donated provided by Keith and Mariah Mull, Larned Fire Department, Dennis and Joan Wilson, Matt and Robyn Hall,  David and Linda Zecha, Assembly of God Church, American Legion Riders No. 106, Farmers Bank and Trust and Von Feldt, Bauer and Von Feldt Chartered.   
For information, contact Wilson, 620-910-7900; David Zecha, 620-285-1128; Kyle Beckwith, 620-285-6702; or Terry Harris, 620-910-7998.