A crowd of Legionnaires, Army Reserve troops, city officials and local citizens celebrated the rededication of The American Legion emblem Thursday at Kilbourn Park Reservoir in Milwaukee.
The 50-foot in diameter Legion emblem was first created in the 1930s to memorialize the contributions of veterans and American Legion members to the Milwaukee community. Originally made of flowers, the new emblem is made of concrete and multicolored glass that has been sealed against the elements.
"This emblem is an important symbol of how The American Legion continues to be relevant in our community," said Robert S. Batty, commander of the Legion's Department of Wisconsin. "And our being here today renews our commitment to community service, and all the ways in which we support our veterans and their families."
Batty is a Vietnam War veteran and commander of American Legion Post 288 in Cedarburg.
Dino Sturino, co-owner of Bella Landscaping - contracted by Milwaukee Water Works to build the new emblem - was also at the ceremony. His son, Paul, died of a gunshot wound while serving in Iraq with the 101st Airborne Division. His other son, Alonzo, also fought in Iraq.
Wisconsin Department Adjutant David Kurtz grew up in Milwaukee and felt some nostalgia at the ceremony. "As a young man growing up here, this American Legion emblem was part of my youth. It's an iconic symbol that's been part of our cityscape for about 80 years. And here, today, we're making it a permanent part of my hometown."
Kurtz is an Army veteran who flew helicopter surveillance missions along the East German border in the 1980s.
The event also featured a Community Covenant signing ceremony that included representatives of The American Legion, the city of Milwaukee and the U.S. Army Recruiting Command. Community Covenant is a national program that encourages communities to support U.S. troops, returning veterans and their families.
Kurtz said the project was a real team effort. Besides Milwaukee Water Works and Bella Landscaping, others who played key roles include Pieter Godfrey, an independent architectural contractor and son of a U.S. Marine veteran who fought at Okinawa; Pete Goossens, commander of The American Legion's Milwaukee County Council; and the City of Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commission.