STOUGHTON, Wis. (AP) - In a scene similar to 1989’s classic baseball film, “Field of Dreams,” Bud Erickson overlooks a plowed-under plot of land surrounded by corn just north of Stoughton.
He envisions the roughly 2.4-acre parcel at the northwest corner of Highway B and Country Club Road as a “destination” for veterans, schoolchildren and southeast Dane County residents alike.
Erickson, a former Army corporal who served late in the Korean war, is one of a handful of Stoughton-area veterans spearheading an effort to build a massive memorial for the community, the Wisconsin State Journal (https://bit.ly/1HCHhjz ) reported. The project has been in the works since last July but picked up steam in November when Oscar and Shirley Linnerud offered to donate land for the 60-yard-long memorial and parking lot.
The group, which includes members of the local American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts, aims to raise between $800,000 and $1 million to make the Stoughton Area Veterans Memorial Park one of the largest in the region.
“For years, people have talked about this, and it was always that it was going to be too much work or cost too much money,” said Erickson. “When we heard that Brooklyn was building one, we said, ‘That’s enough. We’ve got to get started.’”
Stoughton’s plans include a centerpiece to honor the area’s soldiers killed or missing in action that will be surrounded by five rows of pillars that honor the area’s other veterans. The group anticipates engraving the names of about 4,500 veterans. So far they’ve collected 2,700 names through research and submissions.
“We’ve got two guys that are working just about full time on the names,” Erickson said. “With all the privacy laws - the young guys from Iraq and Afghanistan - we can’t get their names as easily as the Civil War guys.”
A unique feature will be an educational wing that contains 12 double-sided pillars that will depict famous battles, American texts or speeches.
“We really want this to a place for youth to come and get an education, but we’ve also got benches to make it a place for reflection and contemplation,” Erickson said.
The group has raised about $100,000 so far from individuals and businesses by selling engraved brick pavers, benches and flag poles. They hope to raise $300,000 by the end of September to allow the project to break ground.
If fundraising is successful, Erickson said the group plans to dedicate the memorial on Veterans Day 2016.
Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, https://www.madison.com/wsj
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