History of the Sheboygan County Veterans Memorial
The Sheboygan County Veterans Memorial project began in June 1988, at the annual installation ceremony for the officers of the 14 American Legion posts. Norbert P. Koene, Sheboygan County Commander of the American Legion, suggested a project to honor those from the county who gave their lives in the protection and preservation of the freedom.
Forming A Committee
The idea evolved and became a joint project that involved all 25 veteran’s organizations within Sheboygan County. The Sheboygan County Veteran’s Memorial Committee was formed. Each organization selected two representatives to serve on the committee and Koene was elected as the General Chairman at the meeting held in November 1988.
The Memorial Committee decided to erect a structure to honor those who lost their lives in the six wars Sheboygan County participated in:
The American Civil War World War II
The Spanish-American War The Korean War
World War I The Vietnam War
The members of the Memorial Committee formed four sub-committees; Name Research, Site Selection, Design & Construction, and Public Relations.
Name Research Committee
The Name Research Committee was tasked with identifying the names of fallen soldiers. Over 800 hours was spent conducting extensive research to create the list. They used historical records and archives from the Sheboygan County Veteran’s Service Office, the Sheboygan County Historical Research Center, the public libraries of Sheboygan County, historical files of newspapers published in Sheboygan County, and private collections.
The Name Research Committee was responsible for identifying the names of the individuals who sacrificed their lives in the wars. Over 800 hours were spent doing extensive research to compile this list.
A total of 767 names were identified, and verified, by war in which they sacrificed their lives.
The American Civil War – 385
The Spanish American War – 2
World War I – 94
World War II – 226
Korean War – 22
Vietnam War – 38
Site Selection Committee
The Site Selection Committee met weekly from January through May 1989 to explore each proposed location in Sheboygan County. They used criterion such as size (acreage), visibility, and accessibility. The committee also traveled to other counties with similar, already existing memorials for ideas that could be incorporated.
Based on the recommendations of the Site Selection Committee, the General Committee voted to select a location on the west side of the City of Sheboygan. The memorial would be constructed on the north slope of Taylor Park. It would be bordered by Kohler Memorial Drive (Hwy 23) on the north, Erie Avenue on the south, and Taylor Drive on the west. It would provide adequate size, (2.9 acres), enough room for visitors to park, and a cul-de-sac turnaround feature.
Other favorable considerations included its excellent visibility, especially because the structure would be built on a slope facing Kohler Memorial Drive (Hwy 23). Also, it would be located adjacent to the Sheboygan County Historical Museum, a popular and well-publicized local tourist attraction. This site was also advantageous by being near the Sheboygan Memorial Mall Shopping Center, and the I43/Highway 23 interchange.
Design and Construction Committee
The Design & Construction Committee began its task by studying drawing and photographs of similar memorials and monuments located throughout the United States and even other countries. They searched for suitable designs that could be incorporated into the Sheboygan County Veteran’s Memorial. After much consideration and discussion, the committee selected an original design (of 37 that were submitted). Norm Minster, of Sheboygan, submitted a design concept using arches on March 7, 1990. This design was selected by a vote of the General Committee.
The Design & Construction Committee continued their efforts with the construction component. They worked on refinements and changes that would be necessary in the building of the structure. They retained Zabel Monument Company as a consultant for the project.
The design utilized seven black granite stones in the form of monoliths. Each would be six feet high, five feet wide, and ten inches thick. They were purchased from domestic sources and placed under seven large concrete arches. Each arch would be approximately thirty feet high and ten feet wide. It was estimated that the total width of the memorial would be approximately 100 feet wide when complete.
Six of the stones would bear inscriptions of the names of the fallen soldiers. The monoliths would be arranged in a semicircle. They would be arranged in chronological order, from left to right, by the dates of the wars (The Civil War on the far left, and the Vietnam War on the far right). There would also be a seventh stone placed in the center of the six stones. On this seventh monolith would be inscribed a quote from Franklin D. Roosevelt proclamation of the Bill of Rights, December 14, 1941.
“Those who have long enjoyed such privileges as we enjoy forget in time that men have died to win them.”
Final Construction of the Sheboygan County Veterans Memorial
A ground-breaking ceremony was held by Sheboygan County Veteran’s Organizations on Veteran’s Day, November 11, 1990. A fund-raising campaign was started on November 1, 1990. Letters were sent to businesses, industries, Veteran’s groups, and other potential donors, to finance the project. The goal was set for the amount required to erect the monument, $300,000.00.
In addition to donations, a special appeal was made to individuals who would like to have their own name inscribed on the back of the six monoliths as a personal memorial for a specific person named on the front. The donation for this inscription was set at $150.00 per name. Various construction services from area businesses were also donated.
A large sign was placed indicating the site followed by a 35-foot flagpole and United States Flag (5 feet by 8 feet). Later, the State of Wisconsin and the official POW/MIA flags were added. Each flag is illuminated and prominently displayed 24 hours a day.
Sheboygan County Veterans Memorial Grand Opening
An official dedication ceremony was held on Saturday, August 20, 1994 at 1:00 p.m. Representatives from Federal, State, County, and Local governments were invited. Various Veteran’s Organizations active in Sheboygan County played a prominent role as well (American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Amvets, DAV, and the Military Order of the Purple Heart). Also, two state-wide organizations representing the American Civil War, the Sons of the Unions Veterans of the Civil War (a national patriotic Civil War commemorative organization) and the Second Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Brigade (Civil War reenactors commemorating the famous “Iron Brigade”).
At the dedication a Blue Star Memorial Marker was placed and dedicated within the Veteran’s Park. It was sponsored by the Ivy League Garden Club. This marker represents and honors all service members on active duty.
The purpose of the Sheboygan County Veteran’s Memorial can best be stated in the immortal words of two former war-time Commanders in Chief; President Franklin D. Roosevelt and President Abraham Lincoln: “…from these honored dead… we highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.” (Dedication Ceremony, National Soldiers Cemetery, Gettysburg, PA, November 19, 1963).
Updates to the Sheboygan County Veteran’s Memorial
In 2005, one casualty of the Global War on Terror, was added on the front of the black monoliths.
In 2012, the six branches of service emblems were added to the top of each arch. They include the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marines.
The memorial created a huge response in additional name engravement requests. The Sheboygan County Veteran’s Memorial Committee decided an expansion was needed. This additional two-sided marble wall would allow space for additions for decades to come and was installed the summer of 2015. Construction was done by CS Construction, while Zabel Monument designed and engraved the second memorial wall. On October 10, 2015, the additional names were added to the newly constructed wall.
October 15, 2016, a Gold Star Memorial was revealed and dedicated. This was a dedication to all the Gold Star families whose loved ones paid the ultimate price by defending the United States of America. This was the very first Gold Star Memorial in the state of Wisconsin. It was sponsored by the Ivy League Garden Club, in cooperation with the Sheboygan County Veteran’s Memorial Committee.
The second Saturday in October has been designated as an Annual Name Engraving Event. On that day we recognize, dedicate, and honor those veterans those veterans who have been added to the memorial wall that year. Honorees, their families, friends, and the community are invited to attend and honor Sheboygan County’s men and women who gave their lives.