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Plans unveiled for $1.2 million veterans memorial in southwest Munster, Indiana
EMBARGOED UNTIL AFTER 7 P.M., SEPT. 13
What is now a 6.5-acre plot of grassy land in southwest Munster, Ind., will, by this time next year, be transformed into the rough terrains of war-torn lands with shapes and statues depicting the haunting realism of war in the 20th Century.
Plans and renditions of such images were revealed Wednesday during a press conference and ceremony to introduce The Community Veterans Memorial - a $1.2 million park being built on land donated by The Community Hospital. The site is in southwest Munster at the corner of Columbia and Calumet avenues, located about 2 miles off I-80/I-94.
Well-known sculptors Julie and Omri Rotblatt-Amrany, Highland Park, Ill., presented renditions of their sculptures that will lead visitors on an educational journey through the memorial park. They are the artists who have created the famous sculptures of Chicago legends Michael Jordan and Harry Caray. (See artists’ biographies attached).
The purpose of the Community Veterans Memorial is at least three-fold: to remember, to educate and to challenge. The artists are being guided by a committee of local veterans who shared intimate experiences and sentiments, helping the sculptors to recreate history in their life-sized bronze and granite structures.
“Our intention in building this memorial is to create a place for our community to honor our veterans and to educate all who will benefit from the freedoms they fought to protect,” said Donald S. Powers, co-chairman of the memorial committee and a World War II and Korean War fighter pilot. “It is our hope that history will not be repeated.”
The park will memorialize veterans from all four major military conflicts of the 20th Century: World Wars I and II, Korea and Vietnam. Each war will have a dedicated memorial, linked by pathways and changes in landscape to reflect the actual geography of wartime terrains. The artists are incorporating in their sculptures actual memorabilia, including pieces of uniforms, gear, and military vehicles.
“We will not do a heroic or propaganda approach to the wars - but instead, depict the suffering reality of life for the soldier in the field,” Omri said.
The park’s walkways will be decorated with memorial bricks honoring those who served or are serving in the military. Though approached separately, the different memorials have woven through them a central artistic expression of the horrors of war and the propensity for history to repeat itself.
The effort to develop the Community Veterans Memorial began more than a year ago. Preliminary plans for the memorial were conceived when a group of veterans and local community leaders gathered to reflect, share wartime memories, philosophize, and discuss how to educate future generations. This committee consulted with the commissioned artists.
The Community Veterans Memorial Committee comprises: Donald S. Powers, co-chairman; Edward P. Robinson, co-chairman; George Bone; Eliseo Castaneda; Peter Chang, Clyde Colgrove; Thomas DeGiulio; Paul Doherty; Betty Erickson; John Friend; Don P. Johnson; John Latko; Elaine Olson; Steve Pestikas; Judge James J. Richards; Donald Sands; John Sarnecki; Harold Simpson; Palmer C. Singleton, Jr.; Garnett F. Watson; and Joe Williamson.
Smaller subcommittees work directly with the artists on individual war sites to ensure they accurately portray the conflicts. Consultants for the World War I memorial are: John Friend and Tom DeGiulio; for World War II: Donald S. Powers, Betty Erickson, John Latko, Elaine Olson, Donald Sands, Palmer C. Singleton, Jr., and Harold Simpson. For Korea: Edward P. Robinson, Eliseo Castaneda, Peter Chang and Clyde Colgrove. For Vietnam: Steve Pestikas, John Sarnecki and Garnett F. Watson.
In addition to input from local veterans, the artists have engaged an interdisciplinary team that includes: adjunct sculptors from the Studio of Rotlatt-Amrany; architects Cinda Berry of Evanston, Ill., and Fred Kaplan of Deerfield, Ill.; and writer/researcher Kathleen van Ella of Lake Forest, Ill.
A large part of the Community Veterans Memorial Committee’s duty is to help raise the $1.2 million necessary to complete the initial construction of the park. The Veterans Memorial Fund has been established to accept contributions both for building and materials, and for the memorial brick pathway, whereby citizens may purchase a brick to honor a veteran loved one.
Anyone seeking more information on contributing to the Community Veterans Memorial may call 219-836-4582.