By TRAVIS MORSE firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — Editor's note: This is the second of four stories on Veterans Memorials established in Jefferson County.
MT. VERNON – Making sure the Mt. Vernon Veterans Memorial Monument remains in tip-top shape has become a mission for local residents David Keen and Gary Stover.
Both men visit the site often to remove weeds, replace flags, and perform other tasks to ensure the monument's longevity.
Their commitment stems from a desire to not only honor veterans but also the vision of the monument's creator Howard Phillips, who passed away on July 12, 2002, prior to the memorial's dedication.
The monument has been a fixture at Veterans Park since 2002, and bricks are still being added to the site.
“I think Howard would be smiling from heaven,” said Keen, chairman of the Veterans Memorial Monument Committee. “He would be very pleased with how the monument has turned out. We continued on with his vision.”
Stover, who serves on the monument committee along with his wife, Doris, said helping to keep up the memorial is something he feels he “should do.”
“It's one way I can honor the veterans,” Gary Stover said. “Somebody needs to keep it going.”
The monument's origins stem from a conversation between Howard Phillips and Keen in the year 2000. The City of Mt. Vernon had recently re-named the park as Veterans Park, and the two men felt a veterans memorial would be a welcome addition to the site.
“Howard and I thought it would be a great idea to erect a monument there honoring veterans,” Keen said.
These talks eventually spawned a major fundraising effort for the monument, which ultimately raised over $50,000. The money came from spaghetti dinner fundraisers, a major donation from the Elk's Club, and numerous other contributions from local citizens, churches, and clubs, Keen said.
Bricks have also been sold to raise money for the project. Those who buy one can have their name or the name of a veteran engraved on the brick, which is then added to the monument.
There are currently 1,400 bricks at the site and more continue to be added to help pay for the monument's upkeep.
Local veteran Alfred Bean and his family bought about 35 bricks for the monument, Keen said. After Bean passed away, his family donated the money to buy the two concrete benches at the site.
Another key player in the monument project is Jack Phillips, owner of Phillips Memorials in Mt. Vernon. Phillips and his company did the design work on the project and erected the monument. Lipps Construction Company put in the concrete.
Phillips said his firm has completed numerous memorials over the years, and that each one is “designed on its own merit.”
“It's just something that's important for the whole community,” Phillips said. “It's an honor to do things like that.”
The monument as a whole recognizes all veterans who have served their country. Even so, the memorial also includes three “Gold Mother Bricks” to honor those local veterans who have died while on active duty.
Keen said maintenance of the site is an ongoing project. In the last few years, several improvements have been made there, including adding shrubbery, installing a chain link fence, and putting in new posts.
The hope, Keen said, is that children who come to the park will ask their parents about the monument and then learn about the importance of remembering veterans.
“It's a monument that will be there for a large number of years,” Keen said.