Memorial dedication is Sunday

Memorial dedication is Sunday by David Lias Members of the public are invited to a ceremony fitting for the eve of Independence Day.

The Rudolph Christensen Legion Post No. 237 of Gayville will dedicate a new memorial at 2 p.m. Sunday, honoring an estimated 450 area veterans dating back to the Civil War.

Jensen said the newly elected commander of the state�s American Legion chapter from Piedmont will be guest speaker.

"We'll be serving coffee and cookies," he said. "Everybody is welcome."

"They are the names of people in the Mission Hill, Volin, Gayville and Meckling areas who served in any branch of the armed services at any time," said Ernie Jensen, who with Gary Heier and Dale Bye spearheaded the effort on the Legion post�s part to create the memorial.

The memorial is located on the north end of Gayville's Main Street. The Gayville-Volin school district donated the land at the end of the street, the site of the original Gayville school and located southeast of the current school complex. The memorial is made up of four granite stones containing the names of all veterans � living or dead � from the Gayville area. The stones are complemented by a central stone with the logos of the armed services and the names of area veterans killed or missing in action.

Added importance has been placed on one of the four stones, Jensen said. It contains the names of 12 individuals from the area who died in the military during war.

"We raised around $45,000 total to pay for the work," Jensen said. The funds were collected by asking each family that would have a memebr listed on the memorial to donate $150.

Jensen added that the local Legion post also realizes that the families of some veterans would not be able to afford to pay that amount. "We decided that wouldn�t be a factor; nobody was left off of the memorial," he said.

Luken Memorial of Yankton was hired to carve and place the stones.

"Doyle Stevens of Crofton, NE, did the concrete work for us," Jensen said, "and he did a really good job."

The memorial includes three flags, a spotlight for an evening display of the monument, two benches for visitors and a cement foundation. The site could include fencing for more privacy.

Memorial organizers began making a list of names by copying from tombstones in area cemeteries.

Bye's wife, Jean, started an intense search for names in the spring of 2004 with the assistance of area residents. Besides searching cemeteries, she made phone calls and sent 200 letters to people around the nation who may know missing veterans.

The effort started slowly because people wanted to see if the memorial became reality, Mrs. Bye said. In addition, many people thought the memorial was only for deceased veterans, not those still living, she said.

Bye, Heier and Jensen pointed to the World War II and Korean War memorials in Pierre as powerful tributes to veterans. Jensen and Heier attended both dedication ceremonies, while Bye attended this year�s Korean War dedication.

In a sense, the Gayville memorial will provide a smaller but no less intense tribute, the local veterans said.

"Ever since 9/11, there has been more patriotism," Jensen said. "We need to show the younger generation a reminder of our local veterans – remembering those who are now in the service and those who have given (in the past)."

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