An idea about a permanent veterans monument was bantered about by then-La Verne City Council members Dan Harden, Robert Rodriguez and Don Kendrick and mayor Jon Blickenstaff. When others agreed, the idea moved toward reality.
Harden and Blickenstaff are now retired and Kendrick is mayor. Councilmembers Donna Redman, Robin Carder and Charlie Rosales have joined the initial instigators. Rodriguez turned a tribute to his longevity and dedication to public service into a benefit for the proposed monument.
And thanks to the overwhelmingly response of residential patriots, Veterans of Foreign Wars' Band of Brothers Post 12034 members, local veterans and even children, the second and final phase of the La Verne Veterans Memorial will be dedicated on Monday.
A committee of citizens, veterans, public officials, business executives, University of La Verne educators and local military families, chaired by Air Force veteran Jefferson Hill Sr., coordinated the fundraising campaign and planning for the memorial at Veterans Hall on the southeast corner of Bonita and Wheeler avenues.
Harden will serve as master of ceremonies for the city's 11 a.m. Memorial Day commemorative ceremony and memorial dedication. Andrew McKindley, La Verne Police Department's school resource officer at Bonita High and Ramona Middle schools and an Army National Guard sergeant, will be keynote speaker.
Officials and residents will dedicate 572 brick pavers containing names of Inland Valley veterans, appreciative messages and well wishes from adults and children. The obelisk inscribed with the names of La Verne residents who died fighting for freedom during World War I, World War II, Korean and Vietnam wars, Gulf Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom will also be dedicated.
The eight flag poles, the first phase of the landscaped memorial and the U.S., California, POW/MIA, Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy flags flying over the monument grounds were dedicated on Veterans Day 2012.
Monument committee members Jeannette Vagnozzi, Bill Aguirre, Kendrick and Diane and Larry Deal offered a single quote within President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address to explain the necessity of the memorial: "From these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion. "
La Verne residents have watched the monument construction progress and checked inscriptions on the bricks and obelisk made by Cold Springs Quarry in Minnesota and installed by workers from Martin Laser and Permeco companies. Some just sat on picnic tables at nearby Kuns Park and enjoyed the permanent "thank you" to those who've honorably served.
Ramona students donated $500 for the monument. Oak Mesa Elementary School students raised $3,250 "jump roping for heroes and getting healthy at the same time," said Diane Deal. Oak Mesa principal Mary Donielson and Ramona student-body adviser Brad Smith and his Student Council leadership team encouraged students' participation. Diane Deal, a retired kindergarten teacher, said children's involvement taught them about heritage and citizenship and developed character.
Larry Deal, a retired school counselor, city treasurer Vagnozzi and Aguirre, the city's community services director, said the memorial campaign relied on volunteers and patriotism.
The Deals' son, Gary, is a Bonita and Naval Academy graduate. He is now a Navy captain assigned to Atsugi Naval Air Base in Japan and serves as chief of staff to Admiral Steve Carter. Gary's banner is at D and 11th streets, across from his old high school.
"I personally think it's our duty to recognize people who've made significant contributions to our country and preserved freedom," said Kendrick, a Navy submariner during the Vietnam War.
Vagnozzi, Kendrick and Aguirre said the city has been historically patriotic and cited examples.
World War I veterans built the Veterans Hall as an American Legion hall in 1930. The City Council authorized the posting of an honor roll for local World War II soldiers. The hand-painted honor roll stood at Third and D from 1944 to 1950 when it was replaced with an inscribed rock. The rock was moved to Veterans Hall in 1974. The 21st-century military banner program was started by retired community services superintendent Carla Sullivan Dilley.
The new memorial "mirrors our care and respect for veterans," Diane Deal said.