BANDON - The Bandon Veterans Memorial Committee was honored during U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkey's town hall last week when they were presented with an American Flag that was flown over the U.S. Capitol.
The committee comprises several retired military veterans, members of local civic groups and other members of the community at-large.
"They have worked diligently with the City of Bandon to raise funds to build a veterans memorial in Bandon City Park," said Merkley, who got to see the memorial site on his way into The Barn for the town hall.
In addition to donations from the community and local civic groups, the committee secured a grant from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department out of its Heritage and Community Programs and have matched that fundraising through local efforts.
The construction of the memorial is underway, and personalized memorial bricks that will be cemented to the wall are still available for purchase at $100 each. Anyone who would like to memorialize a Bandon-area veteran, living or dead, can purchase a brick for that purpose. Bricks can include three lines with 20 characters each.
People can also purchase bricks for veterans who, for whatever reason, no longer have relatives in the Bandon area. These might include local veterans going back as far as the Civil War, whose names are on a list at the Bandon Historical Society.
The Barn sits on the site of a barn that housed horses during WWII. The horses were used by Coast Guard officers to patrol the Bandon beaches. The Bandon Veterans Memorial sits on a slab of concrete that was the actual slab for the barracks where the Coast Guard men slept who rode the horses.
"The barracks building was my Cub Scout meeting place in the mid-1950s, and later served other purposes before the wooden structure was removed, leaving only the concrete slab, which has received one overcoat in recent years, when a monument was placed in the center to honor the Coast Guard and other local military men from all wars," said Bill Smith, who spearheaded the Veterans Memorial Committee.
The Bandon Veterans Memorial will hold 1,400 bricks, which leaves room for future names. The committee hopes to have a ribbon cutting for the memorial on Memorial Day this year.
"I would like to thank Senator Merkley for the gift of the Capitol flag," Smith said when presented with the flag. "We, the Bandon Veterans Memorial Committee, several of whom are here today, are honored to accept it on behalf of several groups and organizations who are making the construction of our memorial possible, including our local VFW Walter C. High Medal of Honor Post 3440, the Bandon American Legion Post 26, the City of Bandon, the State of Oregon, local and nearby civic organizations, and all of our other generous donors, including individuals, families and private businesses. Additionally, and most importantly, we accept it on behalf of all the veterans whose names will appear on our memorial."
Smith added that on a personal note, he accepted the flag on behalf of his fallen friends and 1966 Bandon High School classmates, Terry Williams and Terry Sumerlin, who were both killed in action in Vietnam.
Form boards for the Bandon Veterans Memorial are erected prior to the concrete being poured.
"It is their ultimate sacrifice that has driven me to do my part in seeing this project through to completion," Smith said, choking up as he spoke. "If appropriate, on special days, we will fly this flag on the large flagpole at the memorial site. Once again, thank you, Senator Merkley, for this gift, and thank you for your ongoing support of veterans.”
The Bandon Veterans Memorial is sited on city property in City Park, where the Blue Star Memorial Highway memorial is now located. The design consists of engraved bricks with names of those memorialized cemented to a 6-foot wall behind the Blue Star Memorial, utilizing and extending the current platform. Seven flags will be flown on the wall, representing each branch of service.
The concrete for the Bandon Veterans Memorial has been poured for the main part of the memorial by contractor Steve Orton of Seabird Concrete and crew and a finish coat will be applied to give it a smoother look. There's room for expansion of the wall as well. Applications for bricks continue to come in, Smith said, and more than 250 have been sold.
Conceptual drawing of the Bandon Veterans Memorial, which will be located at City Park.
Smith said he's often asked if bricks can still be purchased. His reply:"Bricks can still be purchased now and into the foreseeable future. Upon completion of the memorial, bricks will be added as the applications are received."
Memorial brick forms can be picked up at the VFW, City Hall, Bandon Public Library, Bandon Historical Society Museum and in several banks and businesses. Donations of at least $500 and above will get the donor's name, organization or service club name memorialized on a donor area of the wall.
To donate, make checks out to the Memorial Donation Account and drop them off or mail them to the Bandon VFW, P.O. Box 992, Bandon, OR 97411.
The Veterans Memorial group meets on the first Wednesday of each month at 6 p.m. at the VFW Hall on Bates Road and those interested are welcome to attend.