With lots of help from the community, the local VFW constructs a unique and impressive remembrance wall to honor veterans.
Story by Josh Gaunt Photos by Kevin Eckerman
Sometimes a destructive storm can have a constructive result. Such was the case for the Veterans of Foreign Wars Patrick W. Kelley Post 2468.
In 2010, a strong storm brought down a flag pole attached to the VFW building on Northeast Walnut Street in Roseburg. New flag poles were installed in the parking lot, but the area looked like it was missing something, which got VFW leadership talking about possible remedies.
That led to the question, “Why don’t we think about building a proper memorial or remembrance wall?” remembers Mike Eakin, VFW quartermaster.
Soon a plan was coming to fruition. After VFW member Bill Hamman’s unique wall design was approved, local contractor Tom Pappas of Victory Builders was contacted about the project. Pappas offered to build the wall for free, even suggesting that the memorial feature a replica of the USS Missouri (whose deck was the site of the formal Japanese surrender to end World War II) cutting through water, instead of a traditional water feature.
“A lady came here one day and said, ‘Any time I want to look at my husband and talk to him I come over to the wall.’ That’s the purpose, and that’s pretty cool.”
—Mike Eakin, VFW post quartermaster
With plenty of additional community help, the wall got built in impressive fashion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Remembrance Wall was dedicated on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2013.
Among its many distinctive attributes besides the battleship, the wall includes black Mongolian marble plaques featuring biographical information, including a photo, of each honored veteran. Tom Meyers of FX Design assisted in the design of the plaques which include a QR (quick response) code.
Wall visitors using a QR code phone app are led to a web-based memorial that includes where each veteran served, medals earned and a brief bio. The Roseburg remembrance wall is one of only a few of its kind to feature the QR codes, Eakin says.
“It’s a good reflection for the family,” he says. “A lady came out here one day to look at her husband on the wall, who is buried in the national cemetery. She said ‘Any time I want to look at him and talk to him I come over here to the wall.’ That’s the purpose, and it’s pretty cool.”
The VFW is seeking support from the community to help tell the stories of veterans who put themselves in harm’s way for the cause of freedom. The cost for a plaque is $175, and sponsorships or donations are welcome for those looking to honor their loved one or another individual.
“We’ve had a lot of help from the community, but we could use quite a bit more to achieve all we want to achieve,” says Eakin, who entered the service straight out of high school in January 1966 and served in Vietnam for almost 19 months, losing friends and his commanding officer in the conflict.
“My goal since getting involved with VFW in 1984 has been to help fellow veterans, keep their dream going,” he says. “To help them get their benefits and do what we can to support the community.”