Wood County Veterans Memorial Project
Over the past 20 years, I’ve had meetings on and off with members of the Wood County Courthouse Committee and county Commissioners office regarding their Veterans Memorial Plaza. Originally started in 1950 with their WWI & II Memorial, the plaza has grown over time to include Memorials for the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Congressional Medal of Honor Recipients, and Veterans of Foreign Wars. However, each new memorial was added with very little thought to placement or in keeping with an overall theme for this plaza. The result was, to be quite blunt, a bit of an eyesore that no iteration of the committee was ever happy with.
So, for the past 20 years, we’ve come up with various designs and suggestions on how to renovate or redo the existing memorials. We were never able to agree on a particular design, how to fix the mismatched designs of the pieces, or how to better accommodate Memorial and Veteran celebrations in the plaza.
In 2019, we were contacted by the newest iteration of this committee, with a new Commissioner in office. They were much more driven in their goals of not only renovating the existing memorials but adding new memorials and renovating the entire plaza. They wanted something they could truly be proud of, and invite everyone to come and enjoy while paying tribute to all who had served.
Having met with so many groups over the past two decades, I could tell immediately that this time was going to be different. They left us with a few guidelines, then gave us free reign to do what we thought was best (subject to committee approval of course). Our guidelines were: Make sure the area remained open enough to hold ceremonies, improve the look of the Korean War Memorial that nobody had really liked since it was erected in 1985, and make sure not to disturb the 100-year-old Oak Tree in the plaza center.
For the last time, I set to the drawing board and began working on the new designs and the overall flow of the plaza giving a proper timeline to the various conflicts. Upon approval of the plaza design and placement of each memorial in the proper timeline, the committee contacted a local Architect to draw plans for the infrastructure of the plaza. After the first round of fundraising, the committee gave us the go-ahead to order the monuments.
On a cold damp November morning in 2020, we removed the existing memorials from the plaza. Some to be disposed of, others to be cleaned and refurbished. Over the next 9 months, we would work on retrofitting these pieces, having new memorials arrive, and getting everything set up for the big day. On August 23rd, we loaded up our trucks and began our trip to the plaza for the installation. The project wasn’t without its stresses and difficulties, but the final results speak for themselves. The entire plaza has been transformed from a proper timeline of the various memorial designs to something truly worthy of being called a tribute to those who served.
Below is a description of each piece and the work we did on them.
Civil War: Originally just a plaque installed in the Courthouse itself, we removed it from the courthouse and gave it a proper place in the plaza on its own memorial.
WWI & II: We completely replaced these pieces with a large tablet featuring an American Eagle and the names of those from Wood County who served.
Korean War: Originally designed and built by us with influence by Korean Veterans, we didn’t want to alter the design too heavily. Per my suggestion, we sawed the face of the memorial in half and added a light gray granite back to enhance the overall look of the piece, while keeping the original design intact.
Vietnam War: This was a monument we designed and installed in 1986, the design had held up quite well and the committee wasn’t interested in replacing it. We simply removed, cleaned, and replaced the memorial.
Persian Gulf War: A new piece that was commissioned, we chose to break with the common theme of the other memorials, in reflecting how this particular conflict was in its own way different from the previous conflicts. The 2 pillars symbolize the twin towers with an American flag tying the two wings together. This memorial is not only to pay tribute to all those who have served in the Middle East but to also show our strength and resilience as a country to come through such trying times.
Honor and Remembrance: Falling back to form with the other memorials, this design is to pay tribute to all those who served outside of active combat zones, reminding us that all who serve are vital in their own way.
Congressional Medal of Honor: Much like the Vietnam memorial, we were asked not to alter this one in any way. Just remove, refurbish, and replace.
Gold Star Families: This is another new piece featuring an image of the Gold Star Families Flag.
Veterans of Foreign Wars Benches: Added in the center of the plaza, these benches feature bronze emblems arranged in chronological order, starting with the American Indian War all the way to the current Middle East Conflicts.
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