GRANITE FALLS — As the school district prepares to break ground on a new high school grandstand, volunteers are planning something extra: a community project that would honor those who have served in the U.S. military.
The grandstand is one of the projects paid for by the $13.7 million bond passed by voters in 2017. The veterans memorial would be funded separately, under the umbrella of the nonprofit Granite Falls Education Foundation. Most of the money is expected to be raised through the sale of legacy bricks that would pave a walkway near the new grandstand.
School board member Tom Eadie, one of the coordinators of the memorial project, figures he can easily name 50 students he’s known in the past dozen years who went on to serve in the military. There are many more to be found as he asks around.
“Some of our best and brightest are going on to join the military,” Eadie said. “We really don’t have a way to honor them.”
He’s working with Jeffrey Balentine, an Army veteran who now lives in Granite Falls. Balentine was a Russian linguist during the Cold War. He joined right after he graduated from high school in Thurston County.
In Granite Falls, Balentine has discovered legacies of service in families and among high school graduates. He wants to honor that.
“We have such a rich history in Granite Falls, and if we can reach way back, how impactful would that be?” Balentine said. “You could see generations.”
The challenge is rounding up the names that should be included in the memorial. They don’t want to miss anyone, and they’ve been working to gather military, county and city records that might help. However, they’ve found that the best way to get information is to ask people to submit names and, if possible, contact information for veterans. Balentine set up a website for that purpose. Then they can verify each person’s military service.
They’re also looking for veterans interested in volunteering on a design committee that would meet in February. Plans for the memorial have not been finalized. It likely would be started during grandstand construction. The memorial isn’t expected to be completed as quickly as the grandstand, which they hope will be done by the end of August, in time for the first home football game of the season.
Memorial ideas so far include flags for each branch of the military, a memorial plaque or structure for those who died while serving, and bricks engraved with the names of veterans or active duty soldiers from Granite Falls. Blank bricks would be left that can be engraved with more names, along with space on memorial plaques, so no veterans are left out in the future.
“The goal is to raise enough money with the legacy bricks that veterans don’t have to pay anything for their bricks,” Eadie said.
The legacy bricks, separate from the memorial, likely will cost between $75 and $100. They should be on sale by May so they could be graduation gifts for this year’s high school seniors, Eadie said. Anyone could buy a legacy brick for the grandstand walkway.
Locating a memorial at the Granite Falls High School sports field seems fitting, Eadie said.
“A lot of the kids we send into the military learn their leadership, their teamwork — a lot of those skills — on that field,” he said.
Eadie is part of a military family. That includes a son, also named Tom, who graduated from Granite Falls High School and is attending the Air Force Academy.
News of the memorial planning was shared on social media in January. Eadie and Balentine already have heard from veterans. Eadie received an email from a 2007 grad currently serving in Iraq who offered to donate to the project.
“It’s something people can have a lot of pride in,” Eadie said.
Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Names of people from Granite Falls who have served, including those lost in combat, veterans and active duty soldiers, can be submitted online at granitefallswavets.com.
Veterans interested in helping on the design committee can email Tom Eadie at teadie22 @gmail.com.