- Associated Press - Saturday, September 24, 2016

NORTH LOUP, Neb. (AP) - A leap of faith and countless helpers brought a community and wall together in North Loup.

The Loup Valley Veterans Memorial Park is a project the American Legion and Auxiliary Ralph R. Rich Post and Unit 285 have been working on for nearly two years. The park will include a memorial wall, which is nearing completion, and all military branch flags.

The project came about when Ord wasn’t able to approve a memorial wall. The local Legion and Auxiliary decided one should be built in North Loup if it wouldn’t be in Ord. The Auxiliary ladies banded together to get the ball rolling.

The Grand Island Independent reports (https://bit.ly/2cVaMTc ) volunteers made and are still making the park possible. Auxiliary members researched and compared designs for what they were looking for. Students from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Great Plains Chapter of American Society of Landscape Architecture Student Group designed plans for the park. Members chose the design that best fit the needs to honor veterans.

“We’ve never seen one like this,” Deb Cadek, an auxiliary member said of the final design.

Donations and volunteered time made the project possible. Elaine Asper, an auxiliary member, said the land the wall sits on was donated by Robin Dahlsten, an auxiliary member’s son. An empty house and many trees rested on the land, but Vlach Construction volunteered to clear it for the project. The UNL students volunteered their ideas and designs. Community members offered equipment for constructing the wall. Others volunteered their summer to working on the wall every day. Volunteers broke ground on June 15 and have been working ever since.

“Everyone is volunteering,” Asper said of those working on the memorial. “There is not a person who has been paid.”

Without the community’s dedication and passion, the memorial might not be possible. Asper has applied for grants and other auxiliary members have worked hard to raise funds. Phyllis Hanson, who handles the donations for the memorial, said the project is at $59,000 of the $75,000 goal. Bricks are being sold to put on the wall to honor veterans. Each brick is sold for $100 and the wall can hold more than 800 bricks. So far, 180 bricks from people around the Loup Valley area have been sold to be placed on the wall. Wars are represented all across the board with the bricks, including bricks that honor veterans who’ve fought in the Revolutionary War, Civil War and Vietnam War.

Like the bricks, the volunteers range across the board. Those who are retired and those still in high school have helped build the memorial. Even four-legged helpers want in on the action, as Asper’s dog Zoey often comes to supervise at the site.

Reilly Cadek, 13, helped with the memorial throughout the summer. He said he came out every day until the jobs were done. He helped dig hole

“So many people in our family were veterans, so I figured I might as well help for what they did for our country,” Reilly said.

Reilly said in addition to honoring all veterans, the memorial wall and the park itself could bring more people to the town.

Gary Miller of Omaha spent his summer in North Loup to build the memorial. Miller, cigar in mouth, pounded stakes in the ground for a concrete form where the American flag will eventually stand.

Miller visited the Aspers in 2015 and upon hearing that the memorial project needed help getting started, he decided to volunteer his time and 30 years of concrete business skills. He’s a disabled Vietnam Navy Veteran who served from 1968 to 1972 and received two Navy Commendation Medals.

Miller said seeing the memorial come together gives him a sense of achievement. He said he’s honored to work on the wall and be a part of North Loup.

“The people I’ve met are pretty special,” Miller said.

Asper said Miller takes the project seriously and feels overwhelmed when thinking about what the memorial is for. She said he’s said how lucky he is to be alive and that all veterans should be thanked and honored, which is why the memorial is so important.

Asper said seeing the history with the bricks that have already been purchased it really interesting. The memorial is meant for any and every honorable veteran in the Loup Valley she said. Asper said she can’t wait to see the completed memorial and see the flags flying high, which will hopefully be in early spring.

Jerry Marshall is also one of the volunteers who has helped build the memorial. He said it’s awesome to see the support from people for the memorial.

“It’s a pretty good small community that everyone can come together and make it happen,” Marshall said.


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

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