The memorial, located in the Wyoming Veterans Memorial Park east of Cody, consists of four parts: a pillar topped by a brass eagle on a globe, two black-marble maps of the Atlantic and Pacific war theaters and a long, red wall with black-marble …
With the exception of freshly-laid sod, there was little indication during the Wyoming World War II Veterans Memorial unveiling on Aug. 15 of the frenzied activity that took place there a few days earlier.
The memorial, located in the Wyoming Veterans Memorial Park east of Cody, consists of four parts: a pillar topped by a brass eagle on a globe, two black-marble maps of the Atlantic and Pacific war theaters and a long, red wall with black-marble plaques engraved with the names of Wyoming servicemen who gave their lives for their country during the war.
In front of the memorial is a flag pole displaying a large U.S. flag.
The entire site around the memorial is landscaped artfully with sidewalks, gravel, grass and plants.
But “a week ago, there was nothing here,” Gov. Dave Freudenthal told those gathered for the unveiling.
That wasn't the way things had been planned. Cody veteran Buck Wilkerson, who spearheaded the year-long project to create the memorial and raise the money to pay for it, said the red wall with names of servicemen who were killed was built over the weekend of Aug. 8.
The other sections had been scheduled to arrive in Cody on Aug. 1, in plenty of time to put everything together for the unveiling, despite earlier delays caused by bad weather.
“We were ready for it, pretty much planning for it to be there on the first of August, and thought that would give us adequate time to get it up and get everything done,” Wilkerson said.
“Then, about two days before Aug. 1, they let us know (the memorial wouldn't be here until the 10th.”
The Aug. 15 unveiling had been set several months earlier to coincide with Victory-Japan Day, on which the Japanese surrendered in 1945, ending the long war.
Organizers had no intention of changing the unveiling date, so, after the initial shock wore off, they began planning how to do what seemed nearly impossible: Set up three pieces of the monument and complete the landscaping in less than five days.
“We got ourselves organized and everything we needed to put it together available for the 10th,” he said. “On that Monday, we had the monument company working, the curbing company working on landscaping, stonemasons, irrigation people — about seven different subcontractors working from Monday to Wednesday.
“On Monday (Aug. 10), at 9 a.m., there was nothing there. On Wednesday (Aug. 12), at 6 p.m., they were all standing, and everything was done.”
Wilkerson gave much of the credit for that accomplishment to Bob Davidson, who managed construction on the monument, and to his “right-hand man,” Chuck Eicher.
“Whatever came up, (Eicher) was always there to help,” he said. “He had a lot of personal time in, as did Bob and I.”
Wilkerson said the overall success of the memorial project was due to $200,000 in state funding, as well as the support and concerted efforts of people in the northern Big Horn Basin.
The additional money, time and materials donated locally, when added to the state appropriation, made it possible to have the maps engraved on black granite that was quarried in India, glazed in China and shipped to Vermont for processing.
“We liked that better than anything we saw,” Wilkerson said. “We said, ‘Even though it's more expensive, they deserve it — so let's do it.' And it worked.”
Freudenthal recognized the organizers and workers during the unveiling ceremony.
“They took state money and stretched it,” he said. “You don't see that too often.”