The repairs won’t be cheap and they won’t be made overnight, but members of Coon Valley American Legion Post 116 are confident that the organization’s heavily damaged building and grounds will once again be operational and that the Coon Creek Area Veterans Memorial will once again stand proudly in Coon Valley’s Veteran Memorial Park after flash flooding on Aug. 27 and 28, and again on Sept. 3 and 4, caused extensive damage to both community landmarks.
Coon Creek Area Veterans Memorial
The Coon Creek Veteran’s Memorial, located adjacent to the American Legion Hall in Coon Valley, has 1,780 names of area veterans engraved on its walls honoring them all for their military service. The landmark has been a focal point in the park since it was dedicated on May 27, 2002, but it was extensively damaged by the force of flood water.
The raging waters toppled one of the walls, with three panels attached, and a second wall appears to have been compromised. The fallen panels are engraved with the names of veterans from several wars, plus Peacetime service. The base holding the bronze sentinel soldier statue was also damaged and needs to be replaced.
In addition, two of the service flag poles were broken when a floating recreational vehicle became wedged between them; the flower garden in the front of the memorial was wrecked; and the retaining wall on the backside on the memorial crumbled. The entire area was covered in a deep layer of mud and scattered with debris after flood waters receded. The memorial damages are not covered by insurance and will require donations to repair.
The visual disarray was almost too much to bear for Melanie Role, one of the original memorial committee members. Role said the committee worked for years to raise enough funds to create the impressive structure For Role it was like a piece of her soul died when she saw all the damage the memorial sustained.
“It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. I just want the area to get back to normal and to once again stand as a symbol of honor for our past and present veterans,” Role said.
Anyone interested in making a contribution to the restoration of the Coon Creek Area Veterans Memorial should contact Melanie Role at (608) 452-3857.
Coon Valley American Legion Post 116
The Coon Valley American Legion Post 116 chapter was chartered on March 1, 1921. The 97-year-old Post and its 91-year-old Auxiliary are landmark organizations in the community and have a strong presence at county, district, state and national conventions. The men and women from Post 116 hold numerous events throughout the year and reach beyond their own borders to provide a patriotic presence in community parades and festivities.
Unfortunately, the Coon Valley American Legion Post 116 building and grounds were also heavily damaged by flood waters and the building will require extensive repairs before the facility is operational again. The Coon Creek often overflows its banks and reaches into the park, but it has never reached the epic heights it did during this recent meteorological event.
Coon Valley American Legion Post 116 Commander Steve Nelson said water levels inside the American Legion reached 5-feet high, blew out multiple doors in the building and knocked others off their hinges. Wheelchairs for veterans were damaged beyond repair and tables and chairs could be seen scattered in mud along the banks of the Coon Creek.
“Everything that was below the waterline was either swept out the south doors of the hall or relocated inside,” Nelson said.
The American Legion is in the process of determining the structural integrity of the building and the potential repair costs to fix the existing structure and surrounding property. Currently basic electricity has been restored to the building and fans and dehumidifiers are running to draw moisture out of the water-soaked wood framing.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that the Legion hall recently had several major renovations completed both inside and outside of the building, including the installation of a new cooler (valued at $15,000). The list of losses is extensive including:
- All doors, windows, exterior siding, flooring, interior walls, HVAC and plumbing equipment, sinks, refrigerators, freezers, tap beer dispensers, cabinets, food preparation and serving equipment, utensils, dishes were destroyed and will need replacement. The new walk-in cooler, that is less than a year old, will also need to be replaced.
- The rifles that we use for ceremonial purposes such as funeral and Memorial Day Honor Guard ceremonies were destroyed.
- The doors on the storage shed and its contents, including the grounds-keeping equipment and supplies that both the Legion and the Coon Valley Lions Club, were destroyed.
- The charcoal chicken pits were also significantly damaged.
As dumpsters and truck beds were loaded with items for the landfill, a small silver lining was the recovery of a historic book that hung on the wall inside the meeting hall. The book was hand-written book by Ruth Thrune of Coon Valley and filled with memoirs from WWI and WWII. After surveying the damage at the Coon Creek Area Veterans Memorial, Role went inside the Legion to find the book which somehow received only minor damage. She took the book home and placed paper towels between each pages praying it would dry out and still be legible. Her prayers were answered and one day Role said she hopes the book will once again be displayed as a symbol of pride inside the Coon Valley American Legion Hall.
For more information contact Coon Valley American Legion Post 116 Commander Steve Nelson (608) 330-1103 or any Post 116 Legion member. For the Auxiliary contact Ellie Brye (608) 452-3549 or any Legion Auxiliary member. Online go to coonvalleywialpost116.org
Reach Dorothy Robson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (608) 606-0811.