SUNNYSIDE, Wash. — Sunnyside community members came together at the Jerry Taylor Veterans Plaza on Friday morning to support veterans with American Legion Post 73 as they dedicated the two newest installations.
The addition of one granite wall featuring the preamble to the Declaration of Independence and another with the Star-Spangled Banner brings the total number of walls up to 22 — enough to cover the length of a city block.
“We tried to make this a veterans memorial like no other in the United States,” said Greg Schlieve, post commander for American Legion Post 73. “I don’t think you’ll find another one like it.”
Schlieve said it was designed to go beyond a memorial to thank veterans for their service, to something that would make people stop, think and forget their plans for the rest of the day as they remembered all the people who have fought and died for their country.
“A few are famous heroes, but most were not,” Schlieve said. “Most were just ordinary citizens who answered the call of duty when it came.”
Many of the walls installed at the veterans plaza bear the names of people from the Sunnyside community who answered that call and gave their lives to protect their family, friends and neighbors.
“I lost 15 men in my company in Vietnam in the short time I was there and it means a lot to honor them, to remember their names and see their names written in stone for all eternity,” Schlieve said. “They shouldn’t be forgotten. That’s what it’s all about — not to forget.”
The memorial doesn’t go away after Veterans Day and neither do the men and women it was designed to honor; during the other 364 days of the year, many veterans struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, find themselves living on the streets or lack access to medical care.
“You have to go clear to the Walla Walla VA hospital to find a halfway decent veterans hospital in this area and it’s understaffed and underfunded,” Schlieve said. “I think more than anything, veterans would know the nation cares, if their hospitals were not the oldest buildings in the nation.”
Schlieve said for everyday citizens, the best way to show appreciation is to thank veterans for their service, show up to events honoring veterans and teach their children to do the same, with honor and respect.
“On this day, we stop to honor those who have fought in America’s wars,” Schlieve said. “We will forever be indebted to them — a debt that cannot be repaid.”
Anyone wanting to honor a veteran who has passed on or one who’s still with us can purchase a plaque with their name on it to add to one of the walls listing “America’s Defenders of Freedom.” For more information, contact Greg Schlieve at [email protected]
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