There's support for an Antioch veterans memorial, but where?

Antioch officials are showing support for a veterans memorial somewhere in town, though it may not be part of a gateway community park and gathering place planned across the street from village hall.

That appears to be the direction following an informal village board committee of the whole session last week where supporters pitched the idea.

"I feel we have the support of the mayor and village trustees," said Debbie Rentner, an Army veteran and president of the Veterans Memorial Committee. "I thought there was a pretty united front to build a memorial."

Representatives from the village, veterans groups and others will meet next week to start the process of finding a way forward for a memorial.

"Hopefully, we'll see some real progress on this in an expeditious way. I mean weeks, not years," Mayor Scott Gartner said during last week's meeting.

The idea isn't new. Among the reasons it stalled in the past was a lack of continuity as some village officials who had been involved moved on.

Also, soil borings needed to move forward on another potential village-owned site weren't done, though it is unclear why.

The latest push comes as the time nears to seek bids for work related to the unnamed park on village-owned property east of Main Street (Route 83) between Orchard and Depot streets.

A design approved by the village board last year will open Sequoit Creek through the site and calls for a pavilion, a lawn amphitheater, a playground, a water feature, a concessions building with seating, a gateway plaza, pedestrian walks and more.

"I've been on this mission for 11 years," Rentner said. "It doesn't have to be in the (proposed) park, but I'm not going to quit until a decision is made and we have a commitment that a memorial will be built somewhere in Antioch."

She was joined last week by retired Col. Paul J. Hettich, who said there are 24 veterans memorials in the area. There is a refurbished tank in town, but that area isn't big enough so ceremonies are held at the local cemetery or VFW post.

"We do have the ability to do this," he said, advocating for the park site.

His contention that people would remember any "no" votes riled some trustees as threatening. He later apologized to anyone who took it the wrong way.

"I support veterans, but don't put me up against the wall and say, 'If you vote no, you're the enemy,'" said Trustee Brent C. Bluthardt.

Bluthardt supported a memorial but questioned why the request to locate it in the park didn't come up sooner given the gateway project has been discussed and drawings presented for a year and a half.

"I agree we should have a more appropriate veterans memorial somewhere in this town," he said.

Trustee Mary Dominiak also supports the memorial but said it shouldn't be located in the park.

"I can't see putting a place of reverence next to where people are congregating and having fun," she said.

Gartner said having a veterans memorial of some sort is "very important" and suggested interested parties begin meeting regularly to see how best to proceed.

"I want to come to a point we can have consensus and agreement," he said.

Trustee Scott Pierce earlier in the session said he was insulted by Hettich's remarks but agreed it was time to proceed with planning for a memorial. "I don't know if this is the right place, but it's time to get the ball rolling," he said.

'It's a milestone': Site remediation a key step in development of gateway park in Antioch

The Antioch VFW Post on North Avenue is available for meetings and events, but there is a push for a veterans memorial in town. Courtesy of village of Antioch
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