We were vacating our old post building. It had been sold to the county in 1975, then we had rented it for our meetings. In 2011 the county sold it, and so that September we had to get out and remove our stuff from the storage spaces. I was helping in a real dark closet with a chain-pull light in the ceiling. When I turned it on, I could barely make out what was in there. As I was removing a box, I saw a memorial for the “men of the community who lost their lives during World War II.” There were 38 names.
We were astonished. These were American heroes who had paid the ultimate price — their lives.
I feared that if we left it in that building it would lay there and get deteriorated or busted up and sent to the landfill. I felt it was our duty to honor those men. After all, there aren't too many of the World War II veterans around anymore.
We saw there was damage where it had been hung on the wall or something, and we wanted to see what we could do.
We couldn’t get some of the damage to the marble fixed, but a welder put it in steel to cover some. The welder wouldn’t charge us.
Now, here was the problem: immediately upon putting news about it in the paper, I got calls from people in the area saying, “How come my dad, how come my uncle is not in there?”
So I spent time in the courthouses and cemeteries looking up all the names of World War II veterans from Union County. It was interesting for me to do that.
I received all the names of all the war veterans, and I had to go through all those names and get verification that they died in the wamr to see which names should be added.
Our post was 100 percent behind this. Every time we needed something — it cost us I don’t know how much money for advertisements in the paper, and other things we had to pay for — they said do it.
We got a lot of help from outside the Legion, too. When I got in touch with the monument company, they did it for free.
We have almost 80 names total, as part of the memorial, that I can actually say they died in the war. The new, matching stones have been made with the names and dates. We’re just waiting on the metalwork to be done. There's room if someone has another verified name to be added.
The original memorial was rededicated in the summer of 2012, and sits outside the Illinois Veterans Home in Anna.
I was happy to do it. I’m a Vietnam-era veteran. If those things don’t get done, they’ll be neglected. I think it was meant to be that we find that monument.
In the photo, Jerry Hunter is on the left and Jeffrey Roscow is on the right.
Jerry E. Hunter