DELPHOS, Ohio - Arthur Grothouse, a World War II veteran, looked out over the new Delphos Veterans Memorial Park yesterday and nodded his approval.
"It's a long time coming," the 84-year-old veteran said. "It's really beautiful."
Veterans and their families lined the perimeter of the park at Fifth and Main streets to admire the memorial to Delphos-area soldiers killed in the Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Korean War, and Vietnam. Since work began nine months ago, the project has transformed a former gas station vacant for more than a decade from an eyesore into a source of community pride.
"We turned an ugly duckling into a swan," said Richard Schuck, secretary of the Delphos Veterans Council, which coordinated the project.
"It's about the most prominent place in town," Gregory Redmon said, referring to the busy intersection where the memorial sits at the entrance to downtown Delphos. "Some small towns have really done a nice job with veterans memorials. We were a little slow in coming, but I think we made up for it in quality."
Mr. Redmon, a Vietnam veteran who was awarded three Purple Hearts, placed a wreath at the monument to four local men killed in Vietnam. It was one of four gray granite monuments that paid tribute to local soldiers killed in the two world wars, Korea, and Vietnam.
Those monuments and five black granite pedestals representing each of the armed forces encircle a 96-year-old Civil War monument that was moved from the grounds of the Delphos Public Library to form the centerpiece of the pentagon-shaped memorial.
Don Gerdeman said that for him, the memorial was 54 years in the making.
He and Donald Pohlman, classmates and friends since third grade, were drafted at the same time in 1951, went through basic training together at Fort Knox, and shipped out for Japan together. At Yokahama, they were sent on separate assignments. Not long after, Mr. Gerdeman learned his friend would not be coming home.
"About two weeks after my birthday, my mother wrote me a letter saying that he was killed in action on my birthday," he said. "This is a culmination of that. It brings closure for me."
Mr. Pohlman's name is one of five that appears on the Korean War monument.
"That's been in my heart all along to pay him tribute," Mr. Gerdeman said after the dedication.
He and Larry Luersman chaired the committee that began studying where and how to put together a veterans memorial nearly three years ago. While they first considered the library grounds, they eventually settled on the former gas station property.
It became available for sale in March, and with the city's help, the site was cleared over the summer.
The local Arnold Dienstberger Foundation gave the veterans council an initial boost with a $30,000 grant, Mr. Schuck said. Donations of labor, materials, and money flowed in from there.
The park, which cost more than $157,000 to build, is paid for in full.
"The timing was probably good because of the [Iraq] war and people want to show they have community support for the soldiers and the veterans, and also because of the eyesore that was here," he said. "People wanted to transform it."
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