“Bricks of honor” will soon be laid on a star-shaped platform poured last week at the Elizabeth Veterans Memorial.
Located just past the entrance to the Elizabeth Cemetery, the Veterans Memorial project is a community effort and has been under construction for nearly a year.
“We came up with the idea last September,” said Bill Mansell, who on the morning of Oct. 2 was helping pour concrete at the site. “We didn't have any sort of veterans memorial here in Elizabeth, so some of us got together and decided it was time to change that. It took some time, but we finally got the Elizabeth Cemetery Board to donate the piece of ground for the project and we've been building on it ever since.”
“My father was a veteran and a lot of my friends served in the military,” Mansell said, pausing for a minute to compose himself, and then apologizing because “I get emotional just talking about it.”
“For me,” he added, speaking softly and slowly, “our veterans are very important. They're the reason we have the freedom to do things like this. They need to be recognized.”
Mansell is one of four Elizabeth Veterans Memorial board members, volunteers who have spent hundreds of hours so far on what is clearly a labor of love — and honor.
Built on a 5,000-square-foot parcel located at the northeast corner of the cemetery, the monument has been 100 percent funded by donations from area residents and businesses.
The still-evolving memorial features a set of tall flagpoles and a statue of an eagle perched atop a 6-foot-tall, curved white wall displaying five, 14-inch bronze memorial service plaques.
Before the wall was stuccoed over, one Vietnam veteran placed inside several articles from his tour of duty; another man put his father's Korean War-era dog tags inside the wall.
Last week, Mansell and a half-dozen others worked in the bright 70-degree sunshine, putting the finishing touches on the “pentagon” — a star-shaped concrete pad upon which a series of memorial walls, the project's centerpiece, will be laid brick by “honor” brick.
To help finance the project, the group is selling bricks for $150 each. Each will be inscribed with information about a veteran. When finished, the memorial walls will contain 275 bricks, honoring 275 veterans.
“So far we've sold about 90 bricks,” said Mansell, who lives adjacent to the cemetery and works as a welder or running heavy equipment. In the summer of 2012, he and Lance Homer, the project's board chair, “started throwing some ideas around” for a veterans memorial.
“We'd been talking about doing something like this for a long time,” said Homer, a Vietnam veteran who suffers from Parkinson's disease and uses oxygen and a wheelchair to get around.
“One day Bill and I started mapping out the project in some sawdust on my garage floor,” Homer explained. “Then Bill built a scale model, we made some drawings and then things just sort of took off from there.”
Companies pitch in
Bricks for the wall are being engraved by a firm in Denver. Local companies that have contributed money or services to the project include American Legion Post #82, CW Hauling, Winchelo Hauling, Gaither Hauling and Services, Will White, Bank of the West, Haas Excavating, Outback Liquor, Franks Feed, Greenlee's Pro Auto Care, Frank Conte, Bender Menders, Bob Holt (Big O Tires), the Elizabeth Fire Department, Ogan Painting, Cosentio's Diner, Elizabeth True Value and Advanced Auto Repair.
“This is a bare-bones deal,” said Mansell, while watching volunteer Frank Carnesi smooth out freshly poured concrete. “People like Frank have donated their time and money. There's no government backing for this. It's strictly a community effort.”
The group plans to have honor walls finished before year's end. As the project continues to take shape, Homer said people driving past the cemetery on Highway 86 “stop by all the time to look at it, pay their respects and tell us what a great job we're doing.”
To learn more about the project or to buy a “brick of honor,” call Mansell at 720-300-4927.
For more information about the Elizabeth Veterans Memorial, go to www.EVMF.WEBS.com.