Ohio post upcycles community's trash into eyecatching veterans' monument

Johnstown, OH

In Johnstown, Ohio, Post 254 recently dedicated a large Wall of Honor monument that commemorates local veterans, including 21 Ohioans killed in action. What the monument from other walls of honor projects is that it sits on the site of an old landfill, and is made from abandoned or defunct materials from the city.

"We're pretty proud with the state of a lot of recycled materials," said Rick Petersen, post commander.

The monument, essentially four columns and six connecting walls, was initially intended to be a Walk of Honor. But the architect proposed a different design and Petersen said it hasn't varied from his vision.

"The response was really overwhelming. Once [post members] had seen the photographs and the designs of it, there was really no selling of it, it sold itself," he said.

The stone foundation of a demolished local schoolhouse was saved, milled and incorporated into the columns. The benches are made from "original Johnstown sidewalk," Petersen said.

"Our basketball court, our horseshoe competition area and volleyball courts are on top of this landfill. It's all settled, it's well-preserved, it's got a lot of topsoil on it. It was put to sleep the right way," Petersen said.

Auxiliary member Sally Conrad painted the two eagle statues that perch at either end of the monument.

"We affectionately named them Orville and Wilbur," Petersen said.

He said the project's recycling and community angles helped persuade potential donors to fund the project.

"We went out to procure money for this from what we call benefactors that have the same vision we did. That was a big point for them," he said.

For the post members, probably the most important aspect for them was incorporating the 21 KIA onto the wall first, Petersen said.

The wall lists about 200 names now, and can hold 1,196. They're selling individual bricks for $75 each.

"We knew it was going to be a long term project. That's what we wanted," Petersen said.

Involving the community in the project's literal core has translated to making the monument a community gathering place already.

It began with the dedication ceremony Aug. 22. More than 400 people attended. At the dedication, Petersen said he honored the tradespeople who worked on the project.

That same day, the local Purple Heart chapter honored 28 local Purple Heart recipients. Later in the day, the sergeant of arms and Boy Scouts led a flag disposal ceremony that put about 600 flags to rest.

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