As the dedication ceremony at Aztec Park drew to a close on Thursday, a large crowd formed a circle around the new Montezuma Veterans Memorial, joined hands and sang, “God Bless the USA,” led by Jim Fiock.
It was a fitting conclusion, and tribute, to veterans — and to the many people who helped make the memorial a reality.
Many were brought to tears, including Diana Bartlow, who helped organize the dedication. “I cried like a baby,” she said afterward.
A few hundred people attended the event in the small community of Montezuma in Parke County. “I am thrilled beyond measure. It was beyond my expectations,” said Bartlow, the Montezuma Town Council’s representative to the town’s park board, which oversaw the memorial project.
The $30,000 memorial has been three years in the making and has involved much volunteer effort and several community groups.
The memorial includes a 400-pound bronze sculpture designed by Wabash Valley artist and Parke County native Bill Wolfe.
The U.S. flag flies in the middle of the bronze sculpture of an M1 rifle, an airplane propeller, a sword and a sea anchor, representing the different branches of the military.
The sculpture sits atop an 8,300-pound circular concrete base, which features sketches of soldiers and artillery to give a visual representation of wars fought throughout the nation’s history, from the Revolutionary War to the modern-day conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Wolfe designed the entire centerpiece for the flagpole, both the sculpture and concrete base. He said he wanted to create something that would honor veterans down through the ages.
After the ceremony, Wolfe said, “I’m glad they wanted me to be part of it.” His parents are from Parke County, and his father is a Korean War veteran.
The memorial plaza also includes concrete medallions and flags representing the branches of the military and Prisoners of War/Missing in Action.
The dedication included posting of colors, patriotic music and speakers. Groups that participated included American Legion Post 48 of Rockville; the American Legion Post 140 of Clinton; Marine Corps League of Terre Haute; and Boy Scout Troop 62 from Montezuma.
Many Patriot Guard motorcycle riders also attended.
During the ceremony, Paul Bartlow, park board president, said the memorial project “has come together really nice and we’re really proud of it, and we’re proud to have such a turnout to help us dedicate it. It’s quite an awesome feeling.”
At one point, anyone in the audience had an opportunity to take the microphone. Steven Norman, a veteran who served in the U.S. Marine Corps for seven years, told those assembled, “This is small town USA pride at its finest.”
A Parke County resident, he lived in Montezuma for a short time before joining the Marine Corps. The efforts of the small town and its accomplishment in establishing the memorial “has made me proud.”
Later during the ceremony, he was the recipient of a Quilt of Valor distributed by Judy Brown, a disabled veteran of the war in Iraq; she helps make the quilts, part of a nationwide project.
Norman later said he was “speechless. It’s awesome.”
Brown, who also participated in the dedication, distributed 20 Quilts of Valor to veterans as part of the ceremony. She acknowledged each veteran, thanking them for their service. She walked up to them to make the presentation, with others helping by carrying the quilts.
“Hello, Marine, how are you? Can I present you with a Quilt of Honor,” she said to one.
To others, she said, “Welcome home.”
Brown, who lives in Hillsdale, said when she came home from Iraq in 2010, she received a Quilt of Valor. “I started making them to give back,” she said. She and friend Madonna Babyak have made more than 175 quilts — and they’ve given out 600, including those made elsewhere.
Martin Lathrop, one of the veterans who received a quilt, said, “It’s awesome. That made my day.”
The dedication program “was very moving and very fitting to the veterans,” he said.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or email@example.com.