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An overflow crowd attended the dedication of the Benewah County Veteran’s Memorial Oct. 19 at Woodlawn Cemetery.

The following is the text of the remarks made by Jack Botts at the ceremony. Mr. Botts was chairman of the committee that spearheaded the effort to build the memorial. Jim Shubert, Bill Caswell, Candy Pugh and Helen Kevo are the other members of the memorial committee.

Dedicated to all who served

October 19, 2013

The memorial committee and all of those involved in the creation of this tribute to our veterans thank you for your attendance here today. We appreciate the participation by the Plummer American Legion Post, John Wheaton, commander; the St. Maries Lloyd G. McCarter Post, Jim Shubert, commander; and the Marine Corps League from Coeur d’Alene commanded by Jim Flowers.

Jack Botts, the chairman of the Benewah County Veterans' Memorial committee, said a few words during the monument dedication ceremony Saturday afternoon at Woodlawn Cemetery in St. Maries.

I believe that in the heart of every American there is a special place reserved for our veterans and what they have given to all of us. The need to express our thanks in a tangible manner began to be discussed by a few local individuals over 10 years ago. In 2003, John Welz, who was always active in helping veterans, was asked to obtain a listing of war time casualties from this area. That list consisted of 27 names. That was the beginning. We began to gather ideas for a permanent memorial in St. Maries. Dan Hammes was an enthusiastic supporter of the project and gave great suggestions and encouragement. I have to thank Dan Hammes at this venue because he will never let me put it in print. For various reasons, real plans and committee work never got underway until early in 2012.

Everyone agreed that the need for this memorial was long overdue. One only has to walk through Woodlawn Cemetery and view the rows and rows of bronze markers and marble headstones that our government provides to veterans, to realize and be saddened that we have waited too long to thank them with their own memorial.

The committee’s primary goal was to honor the service of all veterans regardless of when and where they served. This was not to be a “War Memorial” rather a “Veterans’ Memorial.” We also wanted to include the US Merchant Marine which has frequently been slighted or forgotten.
The center monument is the All Veterans part of the memorial. There is no list of individuals veterans who have served. There were simply too many names to attempt to gather and many would have been missed. This monument IS for ALL VETERANS. There is a special plaque to recognize Disabled Veterans. We also wanted to pay tribute to those who endured the wars, conflicts and separations from loved ones on the home front. Benewah County residents have an exemplary record for the past 95 years of providing the support necessary to sustain those who serve.
We decided that our list of war casualties would include all those who died while on active duty during a time that this country was involved in a conflict. Our research and your calls and letters produced many additional names to add to the original list of 27. The memorial today has the names of 62 men from this county or surrounding area who died while serving. Their memorial stands as a solemn reminder of the true price of freedom.

George Pfeifer and Terry Murray served on the colorguard.

We were very privileged to get to honor three Medal of Honor heroes. One of these heroes was a native son and the other two had very strong ties to St. Maries. To have the opportunity to create a lasting memorial to these three men was a very special privilege for all concerned.
The components and general layout of the of the memorial were established early on and the earliest sketches look very much like the finished product. We asked Terry Mourning, a Spokane architect, with ties to St. Maries, to adapt our plans to the site. He also made several suggestions which contributed a great deal to the overall visual effect.

The next phase was asking for your help in building “the dream.” The response was phenomenal and as the project developed it began to take on a life of its own – as expressed by one of our committee members. We broke ground five months ago and since then there has been generous assistance given in every phase of the construction. There are simply way too many people to include in the brief remarks I will make today. We are planning a special appreciation day event soon to acknowledge all the efforts of our volunteers and contributors.

There are however, three men whom I must tell you are largely responsible for the physical construction of what you have before you.
In the Navy he was a Chief Petty Officer, in civilian life he was a Fire Chief and as a memorial committee co-chairman he became “Chief Engineer.” Jim Shubert’s skills in design work and experience in construction combined with his passion for detail and “doing it right” have been invaluable throughout the construction. Jim also spent countless hours doing the tiring, physical labor required from day to day. Jim did whatever needed to be done.

We were very fortunate that Randy Nold came to us and volunteer to do the concrete work. He has spent the past five months fully committed to creating this memorial. Randy has labored in every extreme of weather, often alone, to advance this project. The hundreds of hours that Randy gave to this memorial were in addition to operating his own private business. I cannot begin to express to you how hard he has worked for all of us. He has truly gone above and beyond. Randy – if this project didn’t burn you out on volunteering then nothing ever will.

Jeremy Buell designed and constructed the three monuments and they are much more than mere stone columns. He developed a special feeling for this project and it was reflected in the design and construction of these three monuments. Each one posed special challenges and he had the expertise and enthusiasm to solve each problem that we encountered.

Please give these three your applause.

Work on the memorial is not finished. Guard rails on the short wall will be installed, six bronze plaques will be placed behind their respective service flags, and the perimeter and parking area will receive additional attention. We have always planned for a permanent Flag Replacement & Maintenance Fund to insure that this memorial is maintained properly.

A special Memorial Remembrance book will be assembled to record your names and those whom you asked to be remembered with your contributions. We will develop a place where the names of any veteran can be recorded. This registry will eventually offer the convenience of online entry.

Your generous support of this memorial has allowed us to pay all the bills and we will have a balance left to fund the work remaining and maintain this memorial.

I know I speak for the entire memorial committee when I say what a privilege it has been to be a part of this grand salute to our veterans. Jeremy Buell commented that to be a part of something like this is a once in a lifetime experience. I couldn’t agree more.

Retired Marine Harold Wadley, a decorated Korea and Vietnam veteran, also participated in the ceremony. He was previously presented the Silver Star at a veterans' memorial ceremony in St. Maries.

I have covered the who, what, when, where and how of this Veterans’ Memorial. We hope that current and future veterans will visit this place and realize that we cared enough to build it as our way of thanking them. If they leave this place and that “thank you” transfers from that special place in our hearts to theirs, then we will know WHY we built it.

In conclusion I would ask something of each of you. As you visit this memorial or drive past and gaze upon it: think of this message that I recently read that is so appropriate.

Remember that: “Our flag does not fly because the wind blows it. It flies with the last breath of each soldier that dies protecting it.”

Thank you very much.

Retired Air Force veteran Master Sergeant Harve Balbi salutes during the flag ceremony.

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