The dedication of the Viroqua Area Veterans Memorial, Saturday, was greeted with excitement and reverence.
A crowd estimated at 1,200 people attended the event in downtown Viroqua that included musical performances by the Viroqua High School Band and the Viroqua Area Men's Chorus; the raising of the national, state and service flags; speakers; and a flyover by two jets from the 115th Fighter Wing based at Truax Field in Madison.
Colonel Mark Lee, a Viroqua native, retired Air Force officer and NASA astronaut, gave the formal dedication for the memorial saying, "I'd like to dedicate this in honor of all those who served, all those who have died and all those who have yet to serve in the military. I know there will be more names that will go on these plaques in the future."
Lee commented on how the memorial honored all who served in the military.
"In the current presidential debate, you hear a lot about who served better than somebody else — whether it be in Vietnam, in the Guard or some other venue that was more honorable than the other," Lee said. "I only served in peacetime and yet one-tenth of the people I've ever served with died in the course of training. It is a great sacrifice. The people who enter the military do it for many different reasons, but they all put their life on the line."
The guest speaker for the event was Major Larry Moser, a Viroqua resident and retired member of the Wisconsin National Guard, who got to the heart of the purpose of the memorial. While he said, "the memorial can never completely repay the sacrifices made by so many," he added that the memorial was a significant reminder of all the area residents who served in the military.
"The names here are your sons and daughters, your mothers and fathers, your grandparents, your relatives, your friends and neighbors," Moser said. "It's very clear to me that you really value the commitment and the sacrifice of those being honored today.
"Life has many challenges, and we make choices as we face those challenges," Moser continued. "The men and women we honor today made choices to defend freedom by serving in the armed forces of the United States of America."
Throughout the weekend crowds gathered at the memorial to look at the names inscribed, more than 3,900 in total.
Viroqua Area Veterans Memorial Committee Chairman Chet Lee said that between 25 and 50 names were omitted somewhere in the process and they will be added to the memorial.
He asked that anyone who had originally submitted names for the memorial who saw that the name did not appear should resubmit the
name to the committee by writing to the committee at: Viroqua Area Veterans Memorial Committee, P.O. Box 142, Viroqua, WI, 54665.
"When you're dealing with 4,000 names something is bound to happen," Lee said of the omissions. "It was an error on the part of the committee and we'll see that the names are added."
Lee said the corrections must come from people who submitted names previously and the committee has lists to check to make sure that's the case. The memorial was designed with space to add the names of additional veterans.
The idea for the memorial was forwarded and a committee formed in 2001. In all, the committee has raised more than $182,000 to construct the memorial and received numerous in-kind donations from local individuals and businesses.