It was 16 years ago that Bill McCoy had a vision for the creation of a veterans memorial that honored all who have served from the Revolutionary War to the War on Terrorism. He wanted it to be a place where people could pay their respects to the men and women who have and continue to sacrifice for a greater good, and where American Legion Post 182 could conduct its Memorial Day ceremony.
Veterans throughout Indiana and across the United States are now memorialized at the new Southern Hancock County Veterans Memorial – an American Legion Family project of Post 182 in New Palestine, Ind.
McCoy, a post member, was present to see his vision come to fruition and dedicated May 12 at Sugar Creek Township Park in front of hundreds of Legion Family and community members. His response to those in attendance about seeing the memorial completed was, “I am relieved.” Post 182 Commander Tom Ayer added, “McCoy was the driving force behind this memorial; he was the driving force that kept us on track and kept our eye on the prize.”
Construction began on the Southern Hancock County Veterans Memorial in 2015. The nearly acre of land near that the memorial sits on at the was donated by the Sugar Creek Township Parks Board, while the design, funding and construction of the memorial was through Post 182’s Legion Family, donors and volunteer labor.
Fundraising efforts for the memorial included proceeds from the post’s Tuesday night poker tournaments, and the selling of T-shirts and engraved bricks that are placed throughout the memorial. The proposed budget for the veteran’s memorial was cut by more than half thanks to all the volunteer labor that included, among many things, the laying of the foundation, engraved bricks, granite monuments, landscaping and pergola – a dedication overseen by 10th District Sons of The American Legion Commander Dave Mummert and Post 182 member Bob Robertson.
“We didn’t charge for anything; and we spent a lot of hours out here,” said Mummert, who owns a construction company that provided the volunteer labor. Both he and Robertson supervised the construction of the memorial. “There were a lot of contractors who donated their time to help us get the project to where it is and we do appreciate every one of them. The whole thing has been a Legion Family project – the Legion, Sons of The American Legion, Auxiliary and Legion Riders. Now we have a place for people to come out and respect our fallen veterans. It’s a place people can sit, relax and think about things. With the American flag flying, it’s a beautiful place.”
The path leading to the Southern Hancock County Veterans Memorial is lined with more than 80 pavers inscribed with every conflict the United States has been involved with since 1776, the number of American and civilian casualties, and the number wounded. The center of the memorial is surrounded by the words duty, honor, integrity and service; six granite monuments for each of the military branches (Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, Army, Navy and Merchant Marines); eight memorial benches; and four granite markers with the emblem of The American Legion, Sons, Auxiliary and Legion Riders. The POW/MIA, U.S. and Indiana flag soar in front of the pergola with two small black canons at the base.
The dedication ceremony included a festival with bounce houses and face painting for children, free food, free Huey rides for World War II and Korean War veterans thanks to Indiana Air Search and Rescue, and other displays such as Past National Commander (PNC) Bob Spanogle’s 1942 WLA Harley Davidson World War II motorcycle. Other Legion leadership present included PNC Butch Miller and Department of Indiana Commander Marty Dzieglowicz.
The ceremony featured music performed by the New Palestine High School concert band and show choir, the Pledge of Allegiance led by Post 182’s Oratorical Contest winner Ben Heady and special guests Jeffrey Mittman and Josh Bleill.
Bleill, who grew up in the New Palestine area, is a double amputee Marine veteran and now a motivational speaker. He was injured by a bomb in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2006. “This memorial and this dedication shows the love that this community has for this community and for our veterans,” Bleill said. “The men and women that are in our active military. The men and women that have served here today – that’s what this memorial is honoring. That we recognize that, that we see the beauty because of what they did.”
Retired Army Master Sgt. Mittman, a member of Post 182 who suffered severe wounds in Iraq in 2005 from a roadside bomb, has two daughters – one in college and one in high school. “It’s events like these where they get to see what community means, what service to others means, and what sacrifice for others means,” he said.
Mittman shared that this past President’s Day his daughters conduced community service projects instead of enjoying their day off. He told his wife that it was “incredible that both of our daughters turned out to be better human beings, better individuals than I am. My wife said there’s a reason for that – there’s a reason our children get what it means to serve something greater than yourself. They have been around the members of Post 182; they have been around other veterans; they have been around people who sacrificed their whole lives. They know friends of mine who are longer with us. They understand what giving is, what caring is, what service is. But the only reason for that is because of people who spend their time, effort and money to create a memorial dedicated to those who have sacrificed for a greater good.
“(Legion Family Post 182) built this memorial for the sacrifices of those who have served before us, those who are serving now and those who will serve in the future. This is a place of healing, this is a place of remembrance, this is a place to teach (future generations).”