None of us dreamed it could happen. As a committee of four veterans, we set out to build a memorial to honor all veterans: past, present and future. In our small city of New Vienna, Iowa, we expected a few hundred names. We designed the stones to hold a capacity of 400, which we hoped would accrue over the next several decades. We exceeded those expectations within 4 months. The City of New Vienna donated the plot of land.
Names poured in from near and far to honor all veterans who had ties to our Iowa community. From the Civil War to today, we prepared to immortalize all those who had served in all wars, in all branches of service. The goal was to include anyone who ever wore an United States military uniform.
100 years after the signing of the armistice between the Allies and Germany, the All Veterans Memorial was dedicated on Nov. 11, 2018. Over 500 attendees flooded our city's streets, eager to commemorate the service of their loved ones. A hush fell over the crowd at 11:11 am, when a moment of silence was offered for every soul that had sacrificed for their country.
All told, 42 veterans, young and old, took part in the ceremony. Flags were presented for every branch of service. A 21-gun salute rang out in the crisp autumn morning, followed by taps and "The Star-Spangled Banner." Two local priests offered their blessings. The wind which had whipped our faces earlier that morning seemed to take a breath: something solemn, something noble was happening here.
As the ribbon was cut and family members poured into the memorial, it was ready to serve its purpose. Families searched the stones to find their relative's name and children looked up at the flags waving purposefully far above. We gathered across the street in our City Hall for a luncheon. Old friends, neighbors, classmates and strangers met and exchanged joyful stories amidst the roar of upbeat voices.
Every day, we encounter new faces paying their respects at the memorial. Some finding a relative, some just passing through. Above all, we know that our memorial, situated along a scenic highway in northeastern Iowa, will be a symbol not only to us, but to generations to come.
FREEDOM IS NOT FREE, AND IT'S WORTH SACRIFICING FOR.
Located: corner of Mill St & Columbus St. New Vienna, IA 52065.