Donations to fix West Richland veterans memorial rolling in

By Loretto J. Hulse, Tri-City HeraldMarch 14, 2014 

This is a picture of the intact memorial, taken during the fifth annual Time of Remembrance service in 2011 at Flat Top Park in West Richland. Nearly 1,000 people attended to remember and honor members of the military who have died in the service of their country.

HERALD FILE

Coins, cash and IOUs earmarked for repairs to the vandalized veterans memorial at Flat Top Park in West Richland are beginning to roll in.

Eugene Lamm, president of the Combat Veterans International Chapter 3, the group spearheading the restoration project, believes the repairs and extra security necessary to prevent another round of vandalism will run several thousand dollars.

"My target is $25,000, though that's not a firm figure," he said.

There are organizations accepting donations and contributing, he said.

Donations to pay for the restoration of the memorial can be made at the West Richland Area Chamber of Commerce, 6102 W. Van Giesen St., or at American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars halls.

"Be sure to earmark any donations as being for the 'veterans memorial,' " Lamm said.

Or call Lamm at 460-1240. Lamm said anyone who wants to make a tax-deductible donation can contact him for the group's nonprofit identification number.

"I can't emphasize enough how the community needs to get behind this project to facilitate moving this along. I don't want to see the community lose its momentum and have this languish for lack of funds," he said.

"I'd love to have the memorial re-dedicated on July 4," he said.

If Lamm hits his target of $25,000, that amount will go a long way to upgrading the security of the area.

"We've been discussing surveillance cameras, decorative fencing, better lighting," he said.

Any money not used for restoring the memorial and beefing up security at the site would be donated to the Combat Veterans scholarship fund at Columbia Basin college for veterans or to another veterans group, Lamm said.

On Monday, Lamm and other representatives of his group will meet with West Richland city staff to discuss the parameters of what they can and can't do to fix and secure The Final Tribute memorial.

The memorial depicted an inverted rifle placed in the ground by its bayonet with a World War II helmet attached to the rifle's butt.

The missing pieces of the memorial -- the helmet and a replica of an M-16 rifle -- were found this week in weeds behind the Benton County Mosquito Control office in West Richland.

They remain in the custody of the West Richland police, who are investigating the vandalism. Sgt. Thomas Grego asks anyone with information on the incident to call the police department at 967-3425.

A pair of bronzed boots at the base of the memorial also were damaged.

Pat Artz, a Vietnam veteran who created the sculpture more than a decade ago, has already volunteered to repair or replace the damage.

"I haven't had a chance to inspect the parts yet to see if they can be reused. But metal is like wood that can be whittled. Metal can be shaped and reformed," Artz said.

If he works on it, Artz said he'll make it stronger, harder to vandalize, though he's surprised the vandals were able to tear the rifle and helmet off the granite.

"They were also anchor-bolted to the rock and were really heavy," Artz said.

Artz fashioned the replica of the rifle out of solid steel.

-- Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; lhulse@tricityherald.com

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