During the last couple of years, it has faced challenges from nearby street construction, bad weather and a dangerous pandemic but the supporters of a Madison park to honor military veterans are starting to see their efforts show fruit with preparation of the park's land and the collecting of funds to pay for construction.
In May, workers started clearing and leveling the park's lot near Silver Creek and next to S. Washington Ave. A sign erected on the property states that the land is the future home of the city's honor park.
The work related to establishing a veterans honor park in Madison started about two years ago. From the beginning, the park's supporters had agreed upon a general layout that included concrete walkways, granite panels and markers that will list the names of military veterans.
The supporters also agreed that the park's honorees would include anyone who served in the United States military and would recognize all veterans, whether those persons were local or not local.
"We will include anyone who wore a uniform, including our National Guard members," Dan Fritz, an honor park committee member, said. "We've had some Guard members ask us about that, and we're certainly including them."
Fritz and fellow park committee member Paul Hansen have spent part of spring 2021 accepting donations from area residents, businesses and organizations that will help pay for the park's construction. The honor park's supporters have received about $210,000 -- a major portion of the $500,000 that they expect to spend on the current construction expenses.
Hansen said the project's supporters have collected 414 names of veterans that are intended for display on a wall workers will erect next to an Honor Path walkway in the park. The supporters have collected enough veterans' names that they will need to establish a second wall next to a walkway.
The supporters had decided to install three granite markers for displaying the nation's six military branches as part of the park's centerpiece. The gray granite panels will display the emblems for the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Air Force and Space Force. The three panels will surround a triangular pedestal that will display a soldier's cross molded from bronze.
The first phase of construction will include the addition of more gravel for the lot's base. Then, workers will start laying down concrete, installing electrical infrastructure, performing the bricklaying needed for a flag-retirement burn pit, and creating the base for an eagle sculpture. Work crews are also scheduled early in the project to install the bases for the honor walls and a Sunrise Wall.
The park's Sunrise Wall will display images related to a typical military veteran's tour of service from the time that a person is sworn into military duty, to their departure from service. The park's supporters also plan to honor the veterans' families. In addition, the Sunrise Wall will identify the major supporters of the honor park project.
According to Fritz and Hansen, donors have sponsored the flagpoles that workers will erect in the parks and park benches for visitors.
The park project is a joint effort among the area members of the McKibbin-Mosher American Legion Post 25 and Ronald Westby VFW Post 2638. Jerry and Sue Larsen of Madison donated the land along S. Washington Ave. where supporters will establish the honor park.