The Wisconsin town of Bloomer may have less than 4,000 residents, but it came together to create a memorial that honors nearly 3,000 veterans, who represent every war era in the United States except the Revolution.
Between the donated land, the donated materials, labor and monetary gifts, the city and its veterans groups raised an estimated $250,000 to see the five-year project through from vision to dedication.
"In my mind, it’s not just a veterans memorial. It’s a veterans memorial that’s embraced by the city, that’s embraced by the entire town," American Legion Post 295 Adjutant James Hudacek said. In fact, the city has taken on adding pavers, and maintains the property.
Designed to echo the shape of a baseball diamond, all the branches of the military (including the Merchant Marines) are accounted for with flags, of course. But they are also represented by the names, which are etched with era of service and branch of military deep into black stone tablets.
Requests to add titles, such as sergeant or general, are denied.
"We were very specific about the names," Hudacek said. "Because the private’s blood is just precious to the private as the general’s blood is to the general. We’re treating everybody equal."
The site is near a local school, and students take field trips to learn about American history and to find someone with the same last name on the memorial.
But maybe most original is the bell tower, which allows visitors to pay their respects while tolling the bell.
Since it was dedicated in 2008, it's become a point of interest for many motorcycle clubs and town attendance to Memorial Day events has increased noticeably.
"It’s a nice stopping place," Hudacek said.