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Memorials unify county through patriotism

Staff writer

When Peabody Army veteran Jay Gfeller finished his 2005 tour in Iraq, he found more impact in Memorial Day.

“When you serve your country, you get involved in organizations back home with other service members who served,” he said. “It’s from all generations and demographics. It’s a real sense of camaraderie and companionship to belong to a group like that.”

One way for him to pass that on now is with the Peabody’s memorial to veterans in Prairie Lawn Cemetery, which was put up three years ago.

“I feel pretty passionate about having those displays,” he said. “It’s a tool we can use to teach younger generations about the people who fought and served before.”

That appreciation is especially strong when children have older relatives who served, Hillsboro veteran Harvey Ray said.

“There are a lot who come to see their grandparents’ names or markers,” the Navy veteran said. “We have a lot of community pride in that.”

The memorial in Hillsboro’s Memorial Park holds extra meaning since it dates to the 1950s, Ray said.

“We’re honoring those who were killed in action, and the rest who died after they returned,” he said.

For Florence’s Veterans Memorial Park, the location on Main St. was a natural choice for remembering veterans, said Scott Zogleman, who was on Florence’s PRIDE committee when it helped set up the memorial in the mid-2000s.

“We wanted to do something for the veterans,” he said. “With a mural already on the wall, it just lent itself right to that. It’s very patriotic. The ones on the original committee, myself included, wanted a bit of a wow factor. It’s something you’re not expecting.”

The park sees involvement even beyond Florence, Zogleman said.

“Most are local, but if you want to buy a brick for your uncle who lived in Washington State, that’s fine,” he said.

One important detail when it was constructed was that the space honored veterans specifically, Zogleman said.

“If it’s going to be a veterans’ park, it’s for veterans,” he said.

Over Memorial Day weekend, 230 flags were set out at Peabody’s cemetery, with help from veterans, other community volunteers and football players, Gfeller said.

“It’s not a required thing, but they come out here because they recognize the service,” he said.

Seeing support and patriotism from those around the county makes a big difference, Gfeller said.

“In the Midwest people are very aware of veterans and go out of their way to extend thanks,” he said.

Last modified May 30, 2019

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