Approaching goal of $250,000
By John Faucher
The New London Veterans Memorial project is well ahead of schedule.
“I just cannot say enough about the support that the community has given us,” New London Veterans Memorial Foundation member James Jaeger said. “We originally thought this was going to be a three- to four-year project, but it’s not. It’s going to quite a bit less time than that.”
Jaeger presented an end-of-year update on the progress of the memorial to city officials on Dec. 6, approximately 18 months after the group formed and planned its first fundraiser.
“We’ve raised about $176,000, plus we’ve raised some additional things through donated labor and material. That comes out to pretty much another $42,000,” he said.
“That means we’re getting close,” he added. “We still hope to get up to that $250,000 goal so that there are funds to maintain the memorial when it’s finished.”
Jaeger said much work was accomplished in 2016, including the site work, installation of pavers, landscaping and the placement of the bronze eagle portion of the memorial to the existing obelisk.
The eagle, donated by the John Bekkers family, was placed in Taft Park on Sept. 28.
“The next step is getting the granite for the memorial walls here in town,” said Jaeger. “It’s arrived a little bit late, but should be arriving here shortly.”
The granite came to the United States from Africa and was cut to size by a U.S. firm. The shipment involved 17 large panels of granite.
They will be shipped to Mathewson Monuments in New London where they will remain for the winter so that as many veterans’ names as possible can be sandblasted and engraved into them prior to placement at the memorial site.
“Right now we have about 400 names, with room for about 1,150 names in just the first phase of it,” said Jaeger. “We’re just about half of the names that we expected to have.”
Memorial panels on the wall are available for all veterans of the U.S. Military who served in war or peacetime service, and can include up to three lines of information with 17 characters on a line including spaces, Jaeger said.
“All we ask is that the veteran received an honorable discharge,” Jaeger said. “You do not need to be a New London veteran to be included on the wall and you do not have to be deceased to be included on the wall.”
Jaeger said there is a considerable cost savings to families and the foundation to have the names engraved on the wall before the wall panels are delivered to the park.
“The cost of the getting those names engraved while it is at Mathewson’s shop is roughly $15, which is very economical. If [Greg Mathewson] has to travel to the wall with equipment and sandblast them at the park after the walls are delivered, the cost increases to $70.
“It’s important that we get as many names on it before we install the walls in the park,” Jaeger said. “The time to stop waiting to have your veterans included on the wall is now.”
Forms for including veterans on the wall are available in a lit kiosk with a fundraising goal sign at Taft Park in downtown New London.
Jaeger also told council members that the foundation will include the names of about a 140 Civil War veterans and a few from the War of 1812.
“We’ve also added a few things such as a set of programmable low voltage lights that can be programmed with up to six different colors for different seasons or events,” said Jaeger. “Most of that was donated by Faith Technologies.”
Jaeger said their goal is to get at least part of the walls if not all of them up for the Memorial Day observation at Taft Park.
“One of the things we’re starting to think about now is the dedication ceremony. We do not have a date established, but I’m hoping maybe sometime by July,” said Jaeger. “We are looking for suggestions of what people would like to see for a dedication ceremony.”
He said the Veterans Memorial Foundation will establish a dedication committee in January.
“I think this will be a big event,” he said. “It may draw state and national attention among several veterans groups.”
He told the council members that amid some doubts early on in the process, few thought the progress would move so quickly on the project.
“The community has just been super responsive,” he said.
New London Mayor Gary Henke told Jaeger, “The Veterans Foundation has done a heck of a job. We can be very proud of what is down there. It really looks nice.”
“It’s going to look a lot better when we’re done,” responded Jaeger.
Fundraiser event underway
The New London Veterans Memorial Foundation began its next large-scale fundraiser in early December. The organization collaborated with Malliet Travel in New London to raffle a grand prize of a vacation package to a location of the winner’s choice valued at $2,500.
The drawing will be held on June 15 at 7 p.m. during the weekly concert in the park at Taft Park.
Tickets are on sale at local businesses including Malliet Travel, New London Area Chamber of Commerce, Festival Foods, Mathewson Monuments, New London Lanes, The Waters Supper Club and Bean City Bar and Grill.
Tickets are $5 each or three for $10. All proceeds will benefit the construction of the veterans wall.