World War II monument model coming to Batavia
A program honoring World War II veterans needs World War II veterans to attend -- and that has been a challenge in recent years because of the health of those aging men and women.
The Pillars of Honor organization and Batavia VFW Post 1197 are hoping to overcome what has been considered the most obvious challenge -- that many World War II veterans are unable to travel to Washington, D.C., to see the National World War II monument.
The organizations will host a Day of Honor at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 13, at the Batavia VFW, where the original-scale model of the World War II memorial will be unveiled.
Sen. Bob Dole used the 800-pound scale model, now owned by the Smithsonian Institution, to introduce Congress to the design of what would eventually be a 7-acre monument with two 43-foot arches and 56 17-foot pillars created by architect Friedrich St. Florian of Rhode Island. The scale model sits on a pedestal and is 8-feet-wide by 8-feet-long.
"The Pillars of Honor organization chose the Batavia VFW Post because they said the size of our hall was the best they could find for this area," Batavia VFW Quartermaster Mike Breyne said of the scale model that travels throughout the country so veterans unable to travel to Washington, D.C., can view it.
Pillars of Honor, based in Des Plaines, was established in part to create the Honor Flights, in which World War II veterans would be flown to view the national monument in Washington, D.C.
As applications came in for the trips, organizers realized that many World War II veterans, most in their late 80s now, could not be cleared for air travel because of health issues.
The decision was made to bring the scale model to area VFW posts, libraries or other community venues, and World War II veterans who attend the Day of Honor receptions are asked to register ahead of time so their names can be included on a program.
But Breyne said that getting feedback from veterans who plan to attend, or getting the word out about the event in general, poses its own challenges.
"The form to confirm attendance is on the Internet, and many of these veterans are not Internet-savvy," Breyne said. "We want it known that those veterans who may not have registered in advance should still come on Sunday, and I am hoping we can them sign in so they can be recognized.
"I would love to see all of the veterans who would never get a chance to go to Washington, D.C., to come to this event and see this scale model," Breyne said. "Though it's not quite the same, it would be similar (in its intent) to seeing the traveling Vietnam memorial wall, and all veterans are invited."
St. Charles VFW Post 5036 Commander Dick Leckbee said many of the nearly 100 World War II veterans at his post are aware of the event and are likely to attend, and he has been sending information to American Legion Halls as well.
Leckbee wants area veterans to see the scale model, because he knows many won't be as fortunate as he was in traveling to Washington, D.C., a year ago with 20 area veterans to see the monument.
"We had a great time and there were so many stories from those veterans," said Leckbee, a veteran of the Korean War.
The pillarsofhonor.org website reports that 16 million men and women served in World War II, and those veterans now number less than 3 million.
"We are losing these valuable souls at an alarming rate of 1,200 each and every day, and the average age of those vets is 89 years old," the site reports.
Breyne credits Pillars of Honor vice president and Vietnam veteran Steve Schaefer of the Des Plaines VFW Post with bringing the scale model to Batavia.
"He was the one who came down here and liked the size of our hall and said this would be a great place to do this," Breyne said.
Schaefer said the event at the Batavia VFW is free to the public, but donations will be accepted as Pillars of Honor continues to present the scale model in a different location each month.
"It costs a lot of money to ship this model, which I call an 800-pound gorilla," Schaefer said. "So if people would like to make donations, we'd really appreciate it."
Breyne said not many veterans have signed up to attend through the online applications, but he said planners are "hoping to have the hall filled with veterans on Sunday."
The Batavia VFW Post 1197 is at 645 S. River St.