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January 27, 2009 4:22 am

World War II veterans monument planned

Written by Tribune Staff

State money could make August dedication possible

An effort to create a state monument in Cody to honor World War II veterans got a boost earlier this month when Gov. Dave Freudenthal asked the Wyoming Legislature to help pay for it.

Freudenthal recommended spending $200,000 to build the memorial, which would be erected in Wyoming Veterans Memorial Park north of U.S. 14-16-20 east of Cody.

“Wyoming has the highest per-capita number of World War II veterans of any state in the United States,” Freudenthal told lawmakers in his State of the State address. “We are losing our World War II veterans at an astounding rate. And I believe that we should build a memorial, place it in Cody and have it done while it is still meaningful to the remainder of those veterans.”

As envisioned, the memorial would be placed south of the state Vietnam War Veterans Memorial in the park. The goal is to have it in place by Aug. 15 this year for dedication on VJ Day, the anniversary of the victory over Japan in 1945, according to Buck Wilkerson of Cody. Wilkerson is on the veterans' committee that is spearheading the project.

Wilkerson said thousands of people from Wyoming served in World War II, and 583 Wyoming servicemen gave their lives.
“We need to honor (World War II veterans) before they're all gone,” he said.

A written concept statement says, “Without the state's appropriation, we are going to be delayed for years, and that is unforgivable.”

Contractors are ready to prepare the site and build the monument, Wilkerson said.

A preliminary concept of the monument was developed through coordination with the governor's office, the Wyoming Veterans Commission and the veterans' committee. It says the World War II veterans memorial will sit on a pentagon-shaped base and will be comprised of a full-sized replica of the Wyoming Pillar now at the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., with two detached wings measuring 8 feet wide and 7 feet high.

The pillar will be gray, contrasting with the black wings.

The wing on the left will memorialize the battles and the significance of the Pacific Theater, while the one on the right will do the same for the European Theater. Wording on the back of each wing will reflect the significance of the sacrifices made by Wyoming veterans.

A pedestal will stand in front with a bronze plaque that will describe the purpose and meaning of the monument. A 30-foot pole to the right of the pedestal will display the American Flag.

The area will be landscaped to enhance the site and to provide sidewalk access from the Vietnam Memorial and from the main parking lot, with borders of pavers that can be engraved as individual memorials.

Wilkerson said he expects the memorial to cost about $200,000 to build, with more money needed for site work.

But he noted that is far less than the $550,000-$600,000 that was needed before the recently-dedicated Wyoming Korean War Veterans Memorial could be built. That money paid to construct the entire park, which included burying a canal, building a retaining wall and adding landscaping and sidewalks, as well as building and placing the memorial.

“If we hadn't had a lot of donated help and materials, it probably would have been up around $800,000 or $900,000,” he said.

World War II veteran Lee Gillett of Powell said he supports the effort to build the memorial.

“If they want to, it's all right with me,” he said, adding, “It don't make me feel any taller or shorter.”

He agreed the proposed project is getting a late start.

“Three of them (World War II veterans) died last week that were friends of mine.”