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Johnson County memorial pays homage to over 560 veterans

July 21, 2019

BEATRICE, Neb. (AP) — When traveling past the south side of the Johnson County Courthouse, it’s hard not to notice the four large, sleek black granite panels inscribed with over 560 veteran’s names.

The Johnson County Veterans Memorial is a view that Kevin McKinney, a spearhead for the project, gets to see every day while working at Farm Bureau Financial Services.

McKinney said the project started nearly three years ago, and the memorial was initially going to be placed between the Veteran’s Club and the Johnson County Historical museum. But after some deliberation, the memorial’s committee decided it should be on county property, the Beatrice Sun reported.

Becky Woltemath of Auburn designed the project. An artwork collage of military history, equipment and personnel is featured alongside the names, with words like honor, service, freedom, duty and bravery written boldly at each panel’s base. At the center of the memorial flies the American flag, with all five service flags standing behind it.

“It exceeded every expectation we had,” said McKinney. “When you see it on paper, you’re going ‘that’s pretty cool.’ But once you see it, it’s ‘oh, holy smokes. This thing is incredible.’”

The project cost roughly $134,000, which was completely raised through donations in 15 months.

All missing in action or killed in action residents of Johnson County were included on the memorial at no charge. The names were submitted from brochures and based on records held at the county Veterans Office.

Other veterans or their families could donate to have their name on a wall, or receive a personalized paver or bench.

“I had calls from all over the United States trying to get names on that wall,” McKinney said. ”(They) had an affiliation with Johnson County, or a family member that they wanted on there, or a family member that lives here now wanted it.”

The memorial took about a month and a half to build, and McKinney said roughly 600 people attended the dedication held for it on May 26.

Roger Lempke, a retired Adjutant General (Major General) of the Nebraska National Guard and a Tecumseh native, was the guest speaker.

The memorial hasn’t been up for two months yet, but McKinney said there’s nearly 100 names that need to be added. He explained those will be added after Labor Day, with additional names to be added on an annual basis.

“If we ever do fill the walls up — it may not happen in my lifetime, but it may — then we’ll just have to consider more walls,” McKinney said.

McKinney said donations can be taken at any time through visiting him at the Farm Bureau or calling 402-335-8271, and that he hopes to see the memorial grow and expand.

“I’m biased, but I think it’s one of the best ones around,” McKinney said. “The best compliment we can get as a committee is people out there looking at it.”


Information from: Beatrice Sun, http://www.beatricedailysun.com

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