Community Veterans Memorial: Honoring Our Nation’s Heroes

Touring the Community Veterans Memorial in Munster, Indiana, is like winding your way through U.S. Military history. From sculptures to landscaping, the memorial takes you through 20th century wars.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in November 2015. We visited the memorial again on Memorial Day 2020. Although the trail through the memorial is open 24 x 7, the restrooms remain closed.

Driving by on the street, you’d think you were passing an ordinary park. However, once you begin the memorial trail, you’ll find it more closely resembles an outdoor museum.

The memorial is set up to be self-guided, although veterans volunteer their time to escort larger groups. On the day we visited, we were honored that five veterans greeted us and walked us through the memorial. They shared  the memorial’s history and the symbolism of the sculptures. They added entertaining quips from their own military backgrounds.

veterans
Veterans Leonard Jarczyk, Larry Anaszewicz, Walter Bracich, Willard Heili and Edwin Lebryk

How it started

The late Don Powers, a successful Munster real estate developer and World War II veteran, dreamed of building the memorial. He donated the 6.3 acres for the project and worked with the late Ed Robinson to bring the memorial to fruition. Robinson was another prominent local businessman and a Korean War veteran. The memorial, owned by the Community Foundation of Northwest Indiana, was financed through private funding.

Following the Community Veterans Memorial path

Brick pavers, etched with significant historic events, edge the memorial’s path. Sculptures represent each of the wars. Artist Omri Amrany created most of the sculptures.

Local aspects add a more personal tone. For instance, the tail numbers on the helicopter in the World War II display are the numbers of the helicopter that memorial co-founder Don Powers flew.

Landscaping through the memorial represents the various war locations. For instance, the grasses planted near the Vietnam section represent bamboo.

Press the audio buttons located at each of the exhibits to hear an explanation of the sculptures.

timeline paversWorld War I exhibitWorld War II helicopterhelicopter tailVietnam exhibit 2

Remembering area veterans

Plaques honor two area Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, William G. Windrich and Emilio Albert De La Garza, Jr.

Bricks etched with veterans’ names make up path through the memorial. Anyone can honor a veteran with a brick, whether they’re from Northwest Indiana or elsewhere, for a  donation of $75 or $150, depending on the brick size. Bricks can be ordered on the Community Veterans Memorial web site. Funds from the brick donations are used for memorial maintenance and beautification.

memorial bricksTwice a year members of the local VFW, Munster Post 2697, place the newly etched bricks in the path. Family members of those honored often come out on that day to take photos of the bricks being put in place. Bricks can be placed in whichever area of the memorial the donor chooses.

Special events

Ceremonies are conducted at the memorial on Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Veterans Day. Memorial Day. Independence Day includes presentations and a 21-gun salute. On Veterans Day, “Taps” follows a three-volley salute. Community support is especially strong on these holidays. “We get a lot of notes here by families that write messages,” one of our veteran escorts told us. “Memorial Day, you’ll walk through here, and there will be American flags all over. And Veterans Day we have a really big outpouring of this community.”

If you go

The Community Veterans Memorial, located at 9710 Calumet Avenue in Munster, Indiana, is open every day dawn to dusk, weather permitting. Admission is free. Visit the web site for further information.

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Disclosure: The South Shore Convention & Visitors Authority, the Community Veterans Memorial, and members of VFW Munster Post 2697 hosted our visit to the Community Veterans Memorial. The veterans served us donuts donated by Munster Donut. However, all opinions in this article are my own. Photos by Skip Reed and Connie Reed.

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