Planning for a vet memorial

By: 
Alexis Barker

Alexis Barker

NLJ Reporter

 

The project may be in its infancy stage, but local veteran Duke Ottema, with the help of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the local American Legion, hopes to have a veterans memorial in Newcastle to honor the community’s past and present veterans.

On April 2, Ottema asked the Weston County commissioners to lend their support for the project. During the meeting, Ottema said that the memorial at the Weston County Courthouse is hard to find. 

“I think it is a noble gesture, but it is not near what veterans deserve,” Ottema said of the plaque located on one outside wall of the courthouse. 

According to Ottema, the idea came to him as he visited various veterans memorials in other places. 

“In Minnesota, every town has a memorial, whether there are 200 people or 20,000 people. They are really fantastic memorials, and I got emotional thinking, ‘Why don’t we have one in Newcastle?’” Ottema said. “I was a little upset about this.” 

Duke served 3 years in Germany beginning in 1975 when he joined the Army patrolling the boarders. Roughly four years ago he joined the local American Legion, becoming more involved with the legion and VFW over the years. The veteran’s memorial is his newest project with the organizations, in addition to being the chairman of the Boys State Committee for Weston County and being involved with the newly added science fair scholarship started this year. 

Ottema said he decided that rather than complain about the lack of a memorial, he was going to do something about it. 

“Why don’t we as veterans and community build a memorial,” Ottema said. His visit with commissioners was part of his mission to visit local entities about the idea, he said. 

Ottema also received support from other local veterans, as well as from City Clerk-Treasurer Greg James. 

“I am in the process of looking for some property, whether it is city, county or state,” Ottema said.

He has considered locations near the four-way stop or in one of the local parks, he said. A spot will be chosen in May by the veterans memorial committee, he said. 

“We are in the infancy part of the whole ordeal, and it is going to take a lot of time and effort on our (the veterans organizations) part,” Ottema said. “The only thing I am here to ask today is for any advice.” 

Ottema said that he does not want the project to be strictly a military thing, but something that will bring the whole community together to take pride in. 

“We have over 600 veterans in our community, and there are 50 in each of our organizations (the VFW and auxiliary) or 100 that are members. That means there are 500 veterans out there doing nothing,” Ottema said. “I’m thinking, ‘What could bring people together more than a project like this?’” 

All are welcome to help with the memorial project, Ottema said, not just veterans. 

“The enthusiasm I have seen from people already, at the first committee meeting, is amazing,” Ottema said. “It is worth my time to say, ‘Let’s push forward and do this.’” 

Ottema said that there is not a lot of money in the local veterans organizations for projects like this. He asked for people to let him know of possible funding sources.

Weston County Commission Chairman Tony Barton expressed support for the project, noting that depending on size, the courthouse and library may be available for a location of the memorial. He also stated that the committee could potentially receive 1% monies from the county for the project, and he noted that those monies are generally used for entities that are doing good for the community. 

Other commissioners suggested fundraising ideas for the project, noting that the memorial in Upton was paid for in part by fundraisers in the community.  

 “I appreciate that; any ideas are appreciated. I want everyone to get involved. This is not just I; it’s a we,” Ottema said.

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