Monday, May 17, 2010

Veteran's Memorial to be enhanced and more respectful

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Veteran's Memorial to be enhanced and more respectful
By Ray Hanania
(Village of Justice Media Writer)

For more than 30 years, the Village of Justice Monument has been cast aside, almost forgotten and ignored by most residents.

Three years ago, Mayor Kris Wasowicz and several board members decided that something needed to be done, especially in this era when so many young American men and women are defending this country with their lives against terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mayor Wasowicz organized a dinner his first year in office to honor the veterans, but last year could not because of budget constraints. Trustee Kinga Bartoszek started to collect the names of residents in the village who are veterans or who had family members who were veterans, publishing them in the newsletter.

This year, the board members decided that the village ceremony for the veterans had to be improved. Their first substantive act towards that goal is to relocate the Veteran's Memorial statue to a location away from the cramped location just north of the Village Hall where residents were forced to sit on folding chairs on the street during sparsely attended events. It will be moved to a new, more spacious and respectful location south of the Village Hall on an area of a Village Park that would allow the public a safe and appealing place to remember the heroic contributions of Village of Justice residents.

Trustee Bartoszek said she researched various proposals to enhance or relocate the monument including discussing ideas with Joe Vallez of the Justice Park District. Vallez has created other memorials in other communities and offered some great suggestions, she said.

"After much discussion and study, Mr. Vallez said the Justice Park District would be willing to cover the costs of relocating the monument and creating a Veteran's Garden around the statue," Trustee Bartoszek said.
The new garden would include benches for individuals to sit and reflect, and to pay tribute to the veterans, the flags, other memorabilia that the Committee is now soliciting and collecting from various agencies to enhance the monument and really provide a respectful area for the Veterans to gather for various ceremonies.

The current site would be used to erect a JPD sign - to advertise programs, etc.  The Board discussed this plan at the Wed, May 5th Committee meeting and voted to accept the relocation on May 10th.

Now, a small group of "regular" critics are trying to say that the effort to enhance the village's memorial to its veteran's is an "act of disrespect."

"Where were they when we were trying to improve this? For years, no one cared about this memorial. They didn't care. No one took any time to do anything. When it was neglected, the critics sat on the sidelines. Now, they are criticizing our plans because they think it is a good political issue. I don't believe that the criticism is really driven by concern for the proper recognition of the men and women who served this country from the Village of Justice," said Trustee Bartoszek, who chairs the Administration Building & Recreation Committee.

"When I attended my first memorial service I was very disappointed.  The Village had to put chairs in the street because there was no room to gather around the actual monument. The backdrop to the service was a parking lot of cars and the music for the event was the traffic noise from Archer Ave.  Not to mention that only a few people even bothered to attend this very important event. The event took less than 8 minutes and many of us on the board felt this was so disrespectful. We needed to do something. I said to the Mayor and Trustee Mary McGee that we need to do something to change this situation. Our veterans deserve better."

At the Village Board's May 10th meeting, Trustee Bartoszek and the board voted to approve a plan to enhance the village's memorial to its veteran's.

Part of the idea is to relocate the memorial statue to a location where families would be more inclined to attend, a place that would be safer where residents would not have to sit in the street and officials would not feel like they had to rush through the ceremony because of the traffic and vehicles on the street.

Trustee Bartoszek said the committee looked into the possibility of enhancing the existing site but said it would be "too costly and there would not be enough room to do this right."

She said the board will expand this year's Memorial Day service to include participation  from local residents and young people. The event will feature the High school band playing taps in a moment of true respect to the veterans and their families. The Boy Scouts will be there in full Scout Uniform. And the Village of Justice's VFW Post will also participate with a display of the American Flag and the posting of "The Colors."

"We are reaching out to many of our local government officials and asking them to attend. We are really trying to make this a much more memorable and meaningful event for the community, the veterans and for their families. They deserve it," Trustee Bartoszek said.

Trustee Bartoszek said that she is disappointed that a small group of critics would try to exploit this effort for their own political purposes.

"I think that this is one of the most disrespectful acts that this group has conducted since I joined the Board," Trustee Bartoszek said. "They don't care about how this will impact the veterans.  All they care about is how to take everything and turn it into a political issue. And that is disrespectful not just to the veterans and their families, but also to the residents of our community. They should join and show respect to the veterans and stop this political exploitation."

Trustee Bartoszek stressed that the current location, being in the street, "is dangerous and not deserving for the sacrifices the veterans made."

"This memorial was set up in the 1970s. It's been almost 40 years. We need to do something to show our respect and I believe the proposals approved by the board do just that. I think most of the residents in the village recognize this as a great move and see through the self-serving complaints of a few people who do nothing but complain," Trustee Bartoszek said.

Trustee Bartoszek also noted that the new location symbolizes a new era of cooperation between the Village and the Park District.

"For the first time in Justice history, the Park District and the Village are working together to benefit the residents of the community.  The goal of this administration is to work with all Village entities.  This Village has worked in isolation for too long and it's about time that we join together for the benefit of the 12,000+ residents of this town," Trustee Bartoszek said.

"The new Veteran's Garden will provide all members of this community an area to sit, reflect and pay respect to the men and women who served and continue to serve our country."


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