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Construction begins on Nebraska park to memorialize veterans

November 10, 2018

CAIRO, Neb. (AP) — Ground has been broken on a new veterans memorial.

About 100 individuals attended a recent ceremony in Cairo that officially marked the beginning of construction for the project that will honor those who served in the nation’s military.

Cairo Veterans Memorial Park project is an undertaking by the Cairo Community Foundation and was sparked by the VanWinkle family.

Kirby VanWinkle said his father, Edward, an Army veteran, had tried to get a memorial established in Cairo for a number of years. The ball really got rolling a couple years ago when the foundation got involved.

Originally, the plan to honor veterans was going to be done by installing a pillar at the community center. That idea grew to create an entire park that will include granite pillars, a wall featuring engraved bricks and a memorial garden on the lot directly east of the Village of Cairo Fire Hall.

“It’s more than what he wanted,” VanWinkle said of his father, who passed away four years ago. “He just wanted the names recognized on main street somewhere. I’m sure he would be very impressed.”

Charity Adams, executive director of the foundation, said the project grew because of the community support. A committee was formed to develop the project. Many members of the committee are veterans or have family members who served.

“This park was built 110 percent with veterans in mind. This is not a vanity park. This is for the veterans,” Adams said.

Cost of the project was estimated to be about $200,000, but it likely will be less, the Grand Island Independent reported.

“We have found that with community volunteers that the project is not going to be anywhere near that,” Adams said, adding that the land was donated by the village.

There are some hard costs for the project. Fundraising efforts are still ongoing to cover those expenses. Donations are being taken and the public can purchase a brick for $150 to dedicate to a veteran. The bricks will be engraved and be part of a 90-foot-long memorial wall.

Bricks can be bought by anyone.

“We want to honor all veterans. It doesn’t matter where you’re from. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been to Cairo or are even from Nebraska. If you have a family member who lives in California and you want a brick to honor them, by all means, you can buy a brick,” said Becky Grabowski, a committee member and Army veteran.

Aside from brick sales, the project is also being funded through Cairo sales tax revenue, a development fund set up through the Grand Island Community Foundation and other donations.

Other pieces of the memorial park include five granite pillars that cost about $15,000 apiece. Each pillar will have a bronze emblem and be engraved with pictures depicting each branch of the military.

The center of the park will be a flag pole surrounded by four granite benches. There will also be a pollinator garden with a cement walkway in the shape of a ribbon.

Construction will be done in phases. The first phase, which all funding has been secured, will likely get started in the spring and includes the memorial wall with a donor recognition section, benches, pollinator garden and basic landscaping.

Phase two includes the granite pillars and a star walkway made up of red, white and blue pavers.

Adams said she knew the community would embrace the project but she was surprised by the turnout for the groundbreaking ceremony.

“I expected them to like it. I expected them to be on board. I knew they wanted it. I did not expect the turn out to be this big,” she said.

Rain shifted the program indoors where several veterans and current military members were honored during a pinning ceremony. The group momentarily made it outdoors to the vacant corner lot to watch committee members turn over dirt with golden shovels.

Hopes are to have the project complete by next fall, Adams said.

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Information from: The Grand Island Independent, http://www.theindependent.com

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