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Heroes honored at shrine rededication

Dave GongMay 27, 2019

A light breeze turned to bluster Saturday as more than 100 veterans, families and area residents gathered to rededicate the Veterans National Memorial Shrine & Museum. 

Led by Greg Bedford, the shrine’s commander, the event featured two flag ceremonies, the National Anthem sung by Fort Wayne City Councilman Tom Didier and speeches from Allen County Commissioner Nelson Peters, Mayor Tom Henry and former state Sen. Thomas Wyss. Derek Pillie, director of constituent services for Rep. Jim Banks, also read a statement from the congressman. 

The shrine, founded by World War I veteran Eric Scott and his wife, Cleo, sits on 40 acres and its museum features thousands of artifacts spanning every conflict in which U.S. troops have fought. The shrine, 2122 O’Day Road, was originally known as The War Veterans Memorial Shrine of American History. 

The museum was recently renovated top to bottom, Bedford said. Asbestos tiles were removed, the walls were scrubbed and painted and the exhibits reorganized.

“It’s been a labor of love,” Bedford said. “Several of our volunteers have hundreds and hundreds of hours into it.”

Peters read a proclamation declaring Saturday to be  Veterans National Memorial Shrine Dedication Day. 

“We’re here because of all of the hard work that the folks that put this memorial back together have endured,” Peters said. “But they had to do all of that in order of those who have kept us a free country and for that we have to be ever so grateful.”

In the early 1990s, Peters said he was part of a project that helped families use radios to contact loved ones in the field during Desert Storm.

“We did that right here from the very space where everybody is sitting right now,” he said. “We need to continue these types of things so we can ensure the lives and the legacies of these people are never forgotten.” 

Henry, an Army veteran, spoke of his brother, who was wounded in Vietnam but died after returning home. It’s important, Henry said, to remember the families of the fallen on Memorial Day.

“There is nothing worse than losing a child. The devastation, the sorrow that I saw my parents face when we were notified of his death can match no other,” Henry said. “I bring that up because today we need not only remember those who served, those who died : the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Let’s not forget the families. They too have paid a tremendous price and will for the rest of their life.”

In his statement, Banks spoke of World War I and the importance of remembrance.

“I’m proud to see the northeast Indiana community coming together to remember a key event in our nation’s history : an event that no longer has a living veteran to tell the story,” Banks’ statement read. “Millions of heroic individuals selflessly answered America’s call to defend her on the battlefields of World War I. This shrine will continue to stand the test of time as a symbol of honor and remembrance for every one of those service members who fearlessly fought in the name of democracy and the American way.”

dgong@jg.net

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