STANWOOD — On a downtown street where local history is celebrated, work has begun to honor those who lost their lives fighting for their country.
After years of planning, a veterans memorial is being built. It was dreamed up by volunteers, paid for through donations and in-kind contributions, and researched by local historians.
The memorial plaza is being built on a lawn next to the Floyd Norgaard Cultural Center, on land owned by the Stanwood Area Historical Society at 27130 102nd Ave. NW.
The design has been changed since a fundraising push last year. It now calls for a central flagpole where a U.S. flag will wave and five kiosks, one for each major armed conflict: World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq and Afghanistan. Each 650-pound granite pedestal will have a plaque with the names of veterans who lived in the boundaries of the Stanwood-Camano School District and died in that conflict. There are 49 among all five kiosks.
A brick wall at the front of the memorial is meant to hold many more names of veterans and active service members. Anyone can purchase a brick engraved with up to three lines to honor loved ones who were or are in the military.
Benches will give people places to sit and ponder. Lights will shine on the flag, pedestals and bricks at night.
Thousands of dollars came in from fundraising, including from people who sponsored benches or bought bricks, but the largest donations were in supplies and services. Contractors are volunteering time and materials to build the memorial, aiming for a mid-September completion. Designers, consultants, excavators, masons, a structural engineer and others offered expertise.
Permits for the project were completed in the winter, but an unusually wet season made it impossible to start work. Now, with contractors busy during the dry season, construction is happening in phases.
Bricks still are for sale for the memorial wall, with proceeds going toward construction and upkeep. Engraving the bricks will be among the final steps for the memorial.
“We’re hoping that since we’ve broken ground, and it’s not just a hope or a dream anymore, more people will be interested,” said Jim Joyce, one of the volunteers behind the memorial.
Joyce, 73, served 26 years in the Navy. A few years ago, he and Bill Keller, friends since their school days in Stanwood, got to talking about how communities around the country have beautiful memorials. It would be nice to have one in Stanwood, Joyce said.
Instead of wondering why they didn’t have such a space, Keller began thinking about how they could create one. The Stanwood Area Historical Society offered to be the nonprofit for fundraising and provided property. From there, plans began to take shape. A small team of volunteers, including Keller, Joyce and local historian Richard Hanks, spent more than three years brainstorming, researching, fundraising and gathering support.
Having a place to recognize local veterans adds an important piece of history to town, Joyce said. When he lived in Washington, D.C., for a few years, he would go to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where he visited the names of those he knew.
He hopes to someday see students at Stanwood’s memorial. There are names they’ll recognize because the families still live in the area. Those names bring a sense of reality to bloody conflicts that younger generations might only recognize as the backdrops of movies or video games.
“Not everyone was a 40-year-old war hero actor like you see in the movies,” Joyce said. “They were 18- to 20-year-old kids who lived down the street.”
It wasn’t easy digging through records, including numerous obituaries, to confirm which veterans from the Stanwood area had died at war. Hanks tackled much of the research.
Names can be added if more veterans’ stories become known, Joyce said.
Workers broke ground on the memorial earlier this month.
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bricks can be purchased for the Stanwood Community Veterans Memorial for $150 each, with up to three lines of engraving. There may be multiple veterans’ or service members’ names on each. For more information or to request an order form, call 360-629-6110 or email SAHSRH2@aol.com.