A tent packed to standing-room-only met on the planned Coal Dock Park on Friday afternoon to celebrate the installation of the WWII Wisconsin Pillar of Honor.
"The pillar is now in place and on time for Veterans Day," said Brad Hoeft, president of Stars and Stripes Honor Flight. "May this site serve as a place of reflection and respect for generations to come."
The pillar is an effort of Stars and Stripes Honor Flight, an organization that works to send WWII veterans to see the memorial in Washington D.C. at no cost. Honor Flight is a national program, and the Stars and Stripes branch was founded in Port Washington.
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Stars and Stripes founder Joe Dean, also a Port Washington aldermen, noted that the pillars also offer a view of St. Mary's Church, something very fitting when "you think of all the mothers who sent their sons off to war."
Mayor Tom Mlada said he was excited to see this addition to the city as a place to reflect on the "extraordinary service and sacrifice of our veterans." Mlada also mentioned his own grandfather and father-in-law — who had both served in the military — and who he called "true hereoes in my eyes."
The Stars and Stripes has an underlying goal of "bridging the gap" between generations of veterans and today's youth, Port Washington-Saukville Superintendent Michael Weber said, and he believes the organization so far has been successful at this goal.
"There's a bond there (between the veterans the young kids) — it's an unual bond, and I've observed it several times," Weber said.
The organization for the first time hosted an essay contest this year, and the winner — a sixth-grader from Grafton — read his essay highlighting the life of soldier James Blong at the ceremony.
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The ceremony also involved the presentation of a wreath by veterans Joe Demler and Harvey Kurz. After placing the wreath, invasion beach sand from Iwo Jima was spread below and water that the organization brought from the WWII Memorial in Washington D.C. as poured on the new monument.
"It is never too late to convey our gratitude," Mlada said of the sacrifice veterans have made, "and we can never convey it enough."
Coal Dock Park is planned to open in June; before then, Stars and Stripes is offering sales of memorial engraved bricks that will surround the pillar. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 262-238-7741.