“It’s going to be very poignant,” said Lora Weigel of the 21-gun salute and taps that will be played by a trumpeter from the Fort Riley 1st Infantry Division Band when a national veterans memorial honoring soldiers who have died since 9/11 arrives in Plainville in October.
"There are towers after towers after towers,” Weigel said of “Remembering Our Fallen,” a national photographic war memorial with 10-foot-tall by 6-foot-wide displays.
Each panel bears the photos and names of the U.S. soldiers who have died, either in action, during training, from PTSD-related issues or from suicide.
“These are all service members who have died in the War on Terror,” said Weigel, one of the organizers of the event. ”It has over 5,000 names of people who have lost their lives trying to stop terrorism.”
The memorial, which originated with a mother in Nebraska whose soldier son died after 9/11, has traveled the nation the past few years, but other than a stop in Kansas City a couple of years ago, this is its first time in the heart of Kansas.
The idea to bring it originated with Sheila Hachmeister, one of Weigel’s sisters, who has two children serving in the military.
Hachmeister saw the memorial in Philadelphia at an Army-Navy game and brought the idea of bringing it to Plainville back to her sisters, Weigel and Susan Stahl.
“We have always done veterans events,” said Stahl, who along with her sisters is noted in Plainville for helping coordinate events that honor veterans, a legacy she attributes to her late father, auctioneer Chick Selbe. “My dad always put it into our heads that we should respect the military.”
So far 13 businesses and organizations have donated more than $500, while another 13 have donated up to that amount, along with donations from more than 50 individuals and families.
“I think people want to donate to a worthwhile cause,” Stahl said.
Plainville Ambassadors Club members have been working closely with the Fort Riley Army base on protocol for the opening ceremony, said Weigel. “We wanted to do this right,” she said.
Months of effort and a legion of community volunteers have gone into fundraising $17,000 to host the event, and to plan and assemble everything it will take from food, a stage, hospitality tent, bleachers, floodlights, transportation, seating, informational material, mailings, contacting families of the 90 Kansas soldiers in the memorial, raising volunteers, working with the high school students who will be involved, and making honor wreaths for family members.
“It just touched our hearts,” Weigel said. “There have been so many people who have contributed to this” from stuffing envelopes and cutting fabric to donating water and providing transportation to volunteering as guides for the actual event. “It’s a sombre occasion, but it’s also become a project that has created community within the community.”
“Remembering Our Fallen” travels the nation in a semitrailer rig, said Stahl. For the trip to Plainville, American Legion Riders will escort the truck on Oct. 17 from the Kansas state line north of Phillipsburg through Stockton to Plainville. The display will be erected throughout the day, then an official opening ceremony will be held at 10:30 a.m. Oct. 18 in Andreson Memorial Park.
“Once the memorial gets here and it’s set up, it is open to the public 24-7,” Weigel said. The memorial will be dismantled starting at noon Sunday, Oct. 20.
On hand for the ceremony will be military dignitaries from Fort Riley, about eight members of the Big Red One’s military band, family members of the 90 Kansas soldiers included in the display, community leaders, grade school and high school students from throughout Rooks County, and anyone who wants to attend. The ceremony and admission are free.
Following an opening prayer, the ceremony will include the national anthem, posting of the colors, speeches and singing of "America the Beautiful," then Rooks County high school students will read each of the 5,000 names while the military band plays. Afterward, the Legion Riders will hold a flag-folding demonstration.
It’s hard to say how many people will attend, whether hundreds or more than a thousand, Weigel said.
“If we have less, we’re prepared,” Weigel said. “If we have more, we’re prepared.”