Monument closer to welcoming home veterans of all wars

The walkways and flags have been installed at the Welcome Home Soldier monument in Albia.

A multi-million-dollar project is well on its way to welcoming home veterans of all wars.

In July 2012, the 31 granite slabs were just starting to be put in place and the area was covered in gravel. Today, the granite slabs are all in place, and a concrete trail system lined with flags has been installed, thanks to a $200,000 federal grant.

"This is a big project this year, with everything we've done," said Jim Keller, Board President for the Welcome Home Soldier monument. "We probably spent over a half million dollars last year doing this."

From the very start, the memorial was meant to be somewhat interactive, meaning you can do more than walk up and look at it. Eventually, the flags of all 50 states will surround an amphitheater, where school kids can find facts and read about each war in the United States' history.

The monument has certainly come a long way, but there are still a lot more changes to come.

"This year what we plan on doing, we've got 21 white crosses going down the middle of our area walking up to it, that'll be the big thing," Keller said. "We will come in later on this fall and dish this all up and plant the grass and everything, were going to redo that. We've got our amphitheater, we've got some problems with it, we know that, but also I've got a company that's going to come in and work on it, probably in June sometime. And the amphitheater is going to be the neatest part of the whole thing to me."

There's still no designated end date for this ongoing project, but all the hours and hard work pay off when you remember the sacrifices from the people this memorial honors.

"It's exciting, this is my eighth year doing it, took a lot longer than I ever thought, I get emotional about it, I just think its such a great thing for our service people," Keller said. "We came back from Vietnam, we weren't treated real well, and that's not the only reason why I decided to do this, I wanted something that would set us apart from everybody else. I can't express how rewarding it is, I've done a lot of projects in my lifetime, this is probably one of the most rewarding ones, and because of the families, the sacrifices that they have made in their lifetime for our country... and I think sometimes we forget that."

Another change -- around 160 more names will be engraved on the granite slabs. Keller said there will be room for 8,000-10,000 names total. If you have a friend or family member you would like to honor on the monument, you can contact the American Legion in Albia at 641-932-2716 for more information.

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