Alexis breaks ground for new veterans memorial

Staff Writer
Aledo Times Record
Congresswoman Cheri Bustos chats with Trent McKeown, a member of the Citizens for Veterans Memorial Committee (middle), and Alexis Mayor Dale Oberhaus before the groundbreaking ceremony for veterans memorial on Wednesday, Nov. 11.

On May 23, 2013, eight people with a dream met for the first time in Alexis. The Citizens for Veterans Memorial Committee started a movement that resulted in the groundbreaking Wednesday, Nov. 11, for the new veterans memorial in the Mercer/Warren County community.

Trent McKeown, a committee member who will do much of the construction, said the original goal was to raise $60,000. That goal was reached in October of this year.

McKeown said the committee initially expected to raise most of its money by selling memorial bricks.

"And that just hasn't happened," he said."

Instead, large cash donations have been the engine moving the project along. McKeown said the committee will accept donations through Dec. 31, 2015. The hope is, he said, the Veterans Day groundbreaking may make the project seem more real and spur the sale of more bricks honoring veterans. He said only about 50 have been sold thus far.

Some site work will be done this fall. The memorial is being built adjacent to Ill. 135 and the old Alexis High School athletic fields. Rick Bertelsen, owner of the Alexis Fieldhouse, donated the land to the committee. The Village of Alexis has agreed to maintain the property.

A large crowd braved the chilly winds for the ceremony. Members of Alexis American Legion Post 189, their families, committee members, children, interested residents and Congresswoman Cheri Bustos turned out for the event. She praised the community when someone loaned her a coat as the wind left the congresswoman shivering.

"What a wonderful community Alexis is," Bustos said.

George Lafferty of Alexis, a veteran of the Korean War and a member of Post 189, was happy to be present.

"This memorial is going to be a wonderful thing," Lafferty said. "It's going to be a very nice memorial."

Leroy Davis, commander of the 14th District of the American Legion, said the memorial will be important for the entire Alexis area.

"I know this Veterans Memorial will be a great asset to the town of Alexis and the area surrounding it," Davis said.

Bustos talked about having the opportunity to speak with Howard "Bus" Moore, a 97-year-old veteran who was in attendance.

"This is why we're here on Veterans Day," she said. "Because of guys like Bus Moore."

Bustos, whose grandfather was a veteran of World War I and whose father served in the 1950s, expressed admiration for Moore and his family. Moore and his three brothers all served in World War II.

The congresswoman talked about Hero Street in Silvis, a small area of the Quad City-area town where 100 men and women served, with eight making the ultimate sacrifice. She lived many years in East Moline, the next town over from Silvis.

Bustos said it's the people of Hero Street, the veterans from Alexis and other communities in her district that she pictures when she cast votes in Congress.

"Thanks for everything you have done for America," she said.

McKeown, who earlier gave a timeline of how the project got to where it is today, said the memorial will be a place where everyone _ regardless of race, creed or political beliefs _ can gather.

"Once it is built, we will all have a place to gather," he said. "We'll all be able to stand here in a common place for a common reason."

McKeown said freedoms "have been made possible by the 292 veterans buried in our Alexis Cemetery" and veterans laid to rest elsewhere.

"May we all continue to serve our veterans as well as they have served us," he said.