Photo courtesy of Joseph Uhnak
With overwhelming community support, a memorial in the center of Palmerton, Pa., honors local veterans from the Revolutionary War through war and peacetime to the present.
The memorial is located in Palmerton Park, on land the city donated. Twenty-four stones are engraved with the names of the area's veterans, listed chronologically except for names added on since it's been opened. In the center, a sculpture with a rifle with a helmet on top sets atop a stone that commemorates the 72 men from Palmerton who were KIA, Legion Post 269 First Vice Commander Joseph Uhnak said. Beneath the bricks is sand from Iwo Jima and Omaha Beach; buried within the memorial is also a piece of the Berlin Wall. The American flag, the POW/MIA flag and the branch service flags fly. The motto for the memorial is "All gave some, some gave all," Uhnak said.
Before the memorial's dedication in 2012, Palmerton didn't really have a veterans' memorial, Uhnak said. The one built in the 1950s commemorating World War II vets had been removed years ago, he said.
The United Veterans Organization, a partnership between Post 269 and the local Veterans of Foreign Wars, decided to change that. Post Commander Ed Moyer wanted to honor all Palmerton-area veterans, from the Revolutionary War on.
But gathering names of veterans from centuries past posed a problem: How many people would know the name of an ancestor who served? To mitigate this problem, Moyer, Uhnak and other volunteers visited cemeteries, collecting names from headstones marked as soldiers.
They also set up a tent at the annual town festival and garnered media attention to get names. Moyer took information for veterans from the Revolution through WWII; Uhnak took names from 1947 until today. When they combined their lists, they had nearly 3,000 veterans. Palmerton itself has a population hovering around 5,000 residents.
To design the monument, they visited neighboring towns, and local philanthropist Richard Nothstein donated the sculpture, made by artist James Muir, as well as the sand and time on the committee.
Uhnak said the community floored the UVO by giving more than $150,000 to the project. To fundraise, the group sent out mailers, asked local businesses for donations and collected change in buckets on the town's main drag, near a bridge, he said.
"People were very generous with this. We sometimes raised $2,000 just standing at that bridge," Uhnak said. Local businesses helped with landscapes, costs and the engraving.
"Everybody who helped with the construction gave of their own time. Everything we bought - they gave us good prices on it, they gave us discounts," Uhnak said.
UVO continues to sell bricks and blocks that donors can inscribe with a message.
Word-of-mouth has also kept the project alive, as they still receive names to add to the stones, Uhnak said. Each year, new names are added at a small dedication ceremony on Veterans Day with a rifle salute.
"It feels so good to look at this and say that people from this town really got behind us and wanted to support us so that we could get this memorial put up. I know we all feel good about it. We were just so surprised how supportive the people of this community were," Uhnak said.
For more information, visit http://www.palmertonuvo.org/