A memorial long overdue


Herald Writer

LAKE STEVENS — Jack Sahlbom has seen some of the horrors of war firsthand, but he considers himself one of the lucky ones.

"I came back," said Sahlbom. The ones that didn’t, "those are the important ones," he said.

Important enough for him that he and other members of American Legion Post 181 are leading a call to build the city’s first war memorial. Sahlbom is the commander of the Lake Stevens-based post.

The group has raised more than $5,000 since February and hopes to dedicate the memorial on Memorial Day 2001. The city has offered the group a site for the memorial, and local Kiwanis members may help build it, but the post needs to raise at least $25,000 more.

"We’ve been talking about this for 55 years," said Sahlbom, dressed in overalls and sitting in a shed on the grounds of Maple Lane Tree Farm, which he owns and operates.

He said the project really got rolling in February as he and a few others tried to rebuild the local Legion post, which had been foundering for years.

"Talk’s cheap," Sahlbom, 75, said. "I said, OK, let’s get a project and get going."

Since then, Sahlbom has promoted the memorial mainly by talking to civic groups and placing newspaper ads.

Sahlbom’s personal motivation for the project started years before when he and his twin brother, both graduates of Lake Stevens High School, enlisted in the Marine Corps. They were 17.

Sahlbom served in World War II in the South Pacific and then spent 11 months on the front lines during the Korean War.

"War is hell," he said of the time he spent in a unit that put in and took out land mines. He said he doesn’t talk about it much, but remembers seeing Korean children freeze to death, and once he had to help carry out a fellow soldier who had been killed in combat.

"It was a privilege and honor to carry him out, because he’d given his life," Sahlbom said.

Sahlbom spoke similarly of the 28 veterans from Lake Stevens who gave their lives in wars and whose names would appear on the proposed memorial. Five served in World War I, 15 in World War II, one in the Korean War and seven in the Vietnam War.

"They paid the supreme price. They didn’t have a chance to get married, to have kids that get married. They’ve never been grandparents. All those things we take for granted," Sahlbom said.

He said he also appreciates the freedom he has because of their sacrifices.

"I can come out here in Mother Nature, get in my car and go wherever I want to go. Some people say we’re not free. I’ve got freedom," he said.

On Monday, the city council approved a design and site for the memorial, in front of the senior center on 124th Avenue NE.

On Wednesday, Sahlbom took his cause to the Lake Stevens Kiwanis.

Dave O’Leary, a member of the group, said, "It looks like we’re going to provide the labor." The group’s board still needs to review the decision before it’s final.

"It’s a very good project for us and anyone else who wants to help," O’Leary said.

Sahlbom is confident the project will come together, bit by bit.

"If we look at this, a raindrop don’t mean nothing," he said, "but if you get enough together they’ll destroy any city you saw."

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