After three years of design, construction and fundraising, the Stoughton Area Veterans Memorial Park is set to be dedicated.
Ceremonies on Saturday, Oct. 14, will include a keynote speech by veteran Duane Broughton, general chairman of the memorial project, as well as performances by the Stoughton High School band before, during and after the ceremony.
The memorial is a joint effort by the Stoughton Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 328 and American Legion Post 59, which helped raise $1 million for the project. The park is located on a three-acre plot at the corner of Hwy. B and Country Club Road donated by Oscar and Shirley Linnerud.
Bud Erickson of the Stoughton Area Veterans Memorial Park Steering Committee said funding for the project came from veterans groups, the City of Stoughton, local businesses and industry, church groups and many private donations.
“It has truly been a community effort, from the initial private donation of land on which it is built, to the final installation of all the various park components,” he wrote the Hub in an email last week. “The result is a very special place where people can come to honor and remember those who have served to protect our freedom.”
Erickson said support from the Stoughton community was “absolutely fantastic.”
“It just seemed (like) everyone pitched in,” he said.
Years in the making
The Legion and VFW had talked about a memorial project for several years, Erickson said, but those discussions hadn’t led to much before a few years ago, when they heard veterans in the Brooklyn area were raising money for a similar project.
“Duane (Broughton) said to me, ‘If Brooklyn can do it, so can we,’’ Erickson recalled.
With that, the group was off, with members visiting memorials in Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota. They began forming a list of objectives, which included four points: honoring all Stoughton area military veterans, educating youth that “Freedom is not free,” commemorating significant events in U.S. military history, and making the memorial a destination point for visitors as a reminder to future generations of the sacrifices of veterans to defend our freedoms, our values and our way of life.
Before long, the park started taking shape, with excavation beginning in February 2016. It has several distinct features, including an ornamental wrought iron archway supported by granite pillars leading to a promenade with flags of the six branches of the U.S. military flying on 20-foot poles.
Twelve pillars with text and engraved images depict significant events in the history of the U.S. military, and inlaid in the promenade are pavers recognizing veterans from all branches of service.
Within the promenade are 38 granite benches, which surround the park’s center, where a bronze statue of an eagle sits atop a large, pentagonal centerpiece listing the names of 176 Stoughton-area service men and women killed in action.
A series of black granite markers engraved with the names of more than 5,500 Stoughton-area veterans radiates from the centerpiece.
Erickson said committee members believe the memorial “far exceeds our expectations.”
“It is a beautiful, some would say awesome, site,” he said. “Even now, before the dedication, there is a constant stream of visitors.”
Erickson said that parking and seating could be an issue for the ceremony, and suggested carpooling to the event. Shuttle buses will run to the park site from Lake View Church and River Bluff School, beginning at 9:30 a.m. and running until 1:30 p.m.