Journal Star news reporter
Posted Jul. 13, 2015 at 12:01 AM
WEST PEORIA - People of the Peoria County Veterans Memorial Committee provided five hours worth of free food Sunday at Jimmy’s Bar to help complete the fundraising for the “Final Salute” memorial.
The “Final Salute,” is to be built in the Courthouse Plaza near the Civil War and World Wars I and II memorials and list the names of Peoria County’s fallen military personnel who served in conflicts after WWII.
Committee Chairman Steve Sonnemaker estimated that before Sunday’s event, about $100,000 was needed to finish funding.
“The architects project the cost a little over $400,000. We’ve already raised $305,000,” said Sonnemaker, who also is the Peoria County clerk.
“This will be the final memorial on the Courthouse Plaza. This will complete the mission started in 1999 when we began the World Wars I and II memorial,” he said.
“This memorial says we realize the importance of service and want to extend the fact that we welcome your sacrifice and the residents’ support,” said Hal Fritz, one of 74 living recipients of the Medal of Honor. Fritz served in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969.
“You don’t have to wear a uniform, you don’t have to carry a rifle, but you should understand why we did,” Fritz said.
Bruce Thiemann, vice chairman of the committee, said the memorial will be about 40 feet by 20 feet, and three bronze soldier statues will be “marching” back to their bases — one representing veterans from the Korean War, one from the Vietnam War and one from Afghanistan and Iraq.
While the Korea, Vietnam and Iraq wars are the biggest ones included in the “Final Salute,” veterans of other conflicts also will be recognized by the memorial.
Leslie Perera, 51, who served in the Navy for 20 years, said it would be great to see people support the lesser known troops.
“The memorial helps because sometimes, we’re forgotten,” Perera said. “It’s always either Iraq or other big ones that people see, but there’s places like Kosovo, there’s places like Grenada. All those things were still combat. I think it’s great that Peoria is recognizing all the veterans we have here.”
Peoria County Auditor Carol VanWinkle estimated that about 300 people had showed up to Jimmy’s by 4 p.m. Sunday.
Donations can be made by cash or check, or donors can buy a $150 brick to have placed around the memorial or a larger $500 block, both of which can be inscribed with a message of the donor’s choice.
He said all donations are tax deductible and can be sent to VanWinkle or 324 Main St. in Peoria.