Ground broken at veterans’ memorial site

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Ron Stull of Niles was a little surprised to see so many people show up for the Veteran's Memorial ground breaking at Riverfront Park in Niles on Sunday.
But the good turnout on a calm and sunny autumn day showed Stull, a Veterans Memorial Committee member, that many residents here appreciate the work being done to build a memorial in honor of past, present and future American soldiers.
Area veteran's organizations made up the color guard and the crowd, dressed for brisk fall conditions, stood in front of where the memorial will be erected.
Mike Ellis,Veteran's Memorial Committee co-chair, was the first speaker.
He thinks recognition of veterans in Niles is long overdue.
Ellis said the committee has so far raised $60,000, of which $20,000 has come from the sale of engraved bricks to businesses and community members.
Total cost of the project is estimated at $107,000 and Ellis said the monument alone will cost $57,000.
But, although over half of the funds needed have already been raised, there is still a considerable way to go to get the memorial completed before summer of 2004, which is what the committee aims for.
Lou Liebetrau, who chairs the committee with Ellis and whose brain child the project is, won't slow down her fundraising efforts until enough money has been raised to see the project through.
During her speech, Liebetrau expressed deep gratitude to those who have helped raise funds and to those who have donated money to the project.
Liebetrau, however, doesn't want to take all the credit for what will become a landmark monument in Niles.
Several community leaders spoke after the two committee members.
Mike McCauslin, Mayor of Niles, was one of them.
In high school when the war in Vietnam ended, McCauslin said he is glad Niles will finally have a place that honors veterans.
His support of veterans and what they have done, he said, is "heartfelt and genuine."
Larry Clymer, county commissioner and former Mayor of Niles, said the erection of a veteran's memorial here is a dream many members of the Niles community have had for many years.
He hopes the memorial will become a place people can visit to reflect on the sacrifices soldiers have made in the past.
Clymer also thanked those who have had the vision to make the project come to fruition.
Don Aslbro, a distinguished retired veteran from Benton Harbor, also spoke.
He thinks the Riverfront Park in Niles has become a "jewel," which will become even more attractive to people after the memorial is erected.
Alsbro, however, didn't only talk about the memorial.
He also talked about Veterans Day and the importance of reminding people of the sacrifices all veterans have made in wars.
As the ceremony came to and end, a firing squad standing on the walkway down by the river shot three blank rounds.
Several of those who witnessed the ground breaking then went to see a model of the Veteran's Memorial, for the occasion located at Riverfront Park's amphitheater.

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