Committee seeks public input on new war memorial

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(Host) Plans are being drawn up for two different memorials to Vermonters killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And, as VPR’s Ross Sneyd reports, the public has been asked to help plan one of the monuments.

(Sneyd) Vermont holds the dubious distinction of losing more of its people per capita to the war in Iraq than any other state.

The Vermont National Guard has already broken ground on a memorial at Camp Johnson in Colchester, to honor its 11 members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now, plans are being drawn up to honor all of the Vermonters killed in what’s referred to as the Global War on Terror – whether they served in the Guard or in the active-duty military.

Rutland Mayor Chris Louras is chairman of a committee appointed by the governor that will recommend a memorial. He says the panel will begin public hearings on the plans next week.

(Louras) "The most important thing we’re going to be dealing with is the location, a proposed location for the memorial. So we want to reach out to the public and find out where they’d like to see that put.”

(Sneyd) Vermont only has one state memorial to service members killed in wars. That’s the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at an Interstate 89 rest area in Sharon.

There are dozens of smaller memorials scattered around the state. But Clayton Clark, the state’s veteran services director, says they weren’t built by the state.

(Clark) "The Vermont tradition really has been to have local monuments. And you will see in many different places across the state town monuments for the Civil War, World War II, Vietnam, you name it. Some of them are quite impressive and beautiful.”

(Sneyd) No decision has been made about what the new monument will look like. Mayor Chris Louras says he believes that will be guided in part by where it is built.

He also says his committee will have to decide who will be honored by the memorial.

(Louras) "The intent is to have anyone with strong ties to Vermont, whether it’s someone who is a Vermonter via home of record, if they grew up here. … It’s not going to be an easy task to determine the eligibility criteria. That’s one thing that will be taken care of at some later time. And we don’t want to open up that can of worms, frankly, at the public meetings because we’re going to get 1,000 different opinions on that. We think there’s some criteria that we can find that’s relatively standard that we intend to use.”

(Sneyd) Louras says his subcommittee will report to the full governor’s Veterans Advisory Council after the public meetings. He expects a recommendation on a site and the criteria for who will be honored will go to the governor by July.

For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.

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