Monroe's monumental support


Thanks to a widespread community effort involving multiple agencies, the city of Monroe is one step closer to having a new veterans memorial honoring those who bravely served.

The memorial ground-breaking ceremony was held Thursday, June 2, at Lake Tye Park in Monroe. In attendance were county, state and local elected officials, plus members of the American Legion Arthur Kincaid Post No. 58, teachers and students from the Monroe School District, representatives from the Monroe Historical Society, the Monroe Police Department, Boy Scout Troop 53, the Monroe Army Recruiting Office and the community at large.

American Legion Arthur Kincaid Post No. 58 and aspiring Eagle Scout Sam Thomas are spearheading the project, which is expected to be completed by Veterans Day.

The new ADA-accessible monument will be located in the grassy area west of Fryelands Boulevard and east of the Lake Tye concession stand and will include a 30-foot solar-powered lighted flagpole. The 8-inch wide black granite memorial will measure roughly 50 inches long, 4 feet tall and rest on top of a larger base.

The new memorial will replace the Legion's forgotten stone World War II monument at Memorial Field, which was dedicated during a special ceremony in 1951. The new memorial will honor all veterans, rather than those from any specific military conflict.

The front will be inscribed with words honoring those who served in the United States Armed Forces, and the back will be adorned with the names of the 18 soldiers from Monroe who fought and died in World War II. The brass plaque from the Legion's original monument will be transferred to the new memorial, which credits eighth-grade students from Park Place Middle School for uncovering the names of Monroe's war heroes.-á -á


Monroe Historical Society President Tami Kinney was the catalyst. When she learned that the Legion had always intended to go back and inscribe the names of the lost soldiers from World War II on the Memorial Field monument, she was inspired to take action. She wrote an article for the Monroe Monitor in November 2013, to raise awareness and see if she could learn the names of the soldiers who died.GÇ¥

She's happy it's finally coming together.

"This is a project that's been near and dear to our hearts for many, many years,GÇ¥ Kinney said.

Park Place Middle School teachers Dottie Simoni and Tonia Boyle were touched by the story and decided to make the unfinished monument a class project. Their efforts came to fruition last year, after Monroe Historical Society volunteer Tom Parry compiled the list of 18 names.

"Ms. Boyle and I saw an article two years ago about our memorial at Memorial Field and we felt like an injustice had to be corrected,GÇ¥ Simoni said. "We wanted to thank our past and present veterans.GÇ¥

Simoni and Boyle's eighth-grade humanities students went to work on the "Gone but not ForgottenGÇ¥ project. Legion members stepped in with their support; Russ Dean helped guide the effort and propel it forward.

Rebecca Gunnarson, Violet Hopkins and Alex McCartney, now ninth-graders at the high school, all contributed to the project and were in attendance at the ground-breaking ceremony.

About 12 other students also conducted the research, Simoni said. They each selected names from the list, and spent time with Parry and World War II veteran Merv Boyes, a museum volunteer who knew some of the fallen soldiers. The students used library resources, newspaper microfiche, old yearbook archives and the internet to collect data.

"They were simply amazing,GÇ¥ Simoni said. "They put in countless hours to this project. I couldn't be more proud of them.GÇ¥

McCartney took to the project with great relish, researching three of the WWII veterans; Herman Schmidt, Lester Crockett and Henry Hooper. McCartney even tracked down the veteran who takes care of Hooper's grave in the Netherlands American Cemetery, and had a phone conversation with Hooper's cousin ' a man in his 90s.

Each student presented what they learned during a special presentation last June.

Since then, the Legion has been busy fundraising and designing the new memorial. Legion members worked with the Monroe Parks Department to identify a more prominent location for the memorial that would more appropriately honor its service members. Legion Commander Larry "WoodyGÇ¥ Woods thanked the city for helping them secure the spot.-á

The Legion next approached Thomas, a member of Boy Scout Troop 53, about tackling the memorial as his Eagle Scout project. Eagle Scout is the highest rank a scout can achieve, but only after an extensive effort. An Eagle Scout candidate must demonstrate he is active and dedicated to his troop, be able to provide personal recommendations and earn at least 21 merit badges.

He also must complete a community service project that benefits a religious institution, school or community.

Key aspects of any Eagle Scout service project include developing a detailed plan, demonstrating the ability to delegate and show leadership, being safety conscious and organizing the entire project from start to finish.

Mount Baker Council Boy Scouts of America (BSA) project approval representative Marc Bardsley provided Thomas final approval of his proposal on Friday, June 3. He will now develop his project plan, solicit donations for project materials and oversee construction of the memorial. The project must be completed before Thomas turns 18 on Oct. 23, in order for him to be eligible for Eagle Scout status.

Donations can be made to help support the project. The American Legion is a 501(c)3 nonprofit. For more information on how to help, contact Boyd Booze at or Woods at 360-793-1363.

Photo by Chris Hendrickson Monroe School District students Rebecca Gunnarson, Alex McCartney and Violet Hopkins at the groundbreaking.


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