Wauconda officials still working on memorial text

  • People applaud a proposal to include a reference to military personnel in a plaque at Wauconda's Heroes of Freedom Memorial during Monday's village board meeting.

      People applaud a proposal to include a reference to military personnel in a plaque at Wauconda's Heroes of Freedom Memorial during Monday's village board meeting. Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

Updated 8/4/2015 4:21 PM

Even though construction is underway and an unveiling is set for Sept. 11, Wauconda officials still haven't approved the text for the town's Heroes of Freedom Memorial -- but they're getting closer.

Trustees on Monday reviewed the latest proposal for a plaque at the memorial, which is being built near the police station on Main Street and Route 176.


They liked it more than two earlier versions, but they decided to suggest revisions once again after hearing complaints from Mayor Frank Bart, memorial organizer Kirk Morris and audience members.

The critics were upset the text -- delivered by a volunteer committee with input from village hall -- didn't specifically reference the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or the military personnel who fought in those conflicts. Earlier versions did.

Instead, the latest version called for the memorial to be dedicated to the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks "and to the sacrifices of those who were called to serve our nation thereafter."

The lack of references to the wars was important to Trustee Tim Howe, who insisted the memorial shouldn't be another military monument. Wauconda already has one of those, just feet from the construction site.

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Howe said he thinks the new memorial should be about the Sept. 11 attacks, which primarily targeted civilians.

"This is not a veterans memorial," Howe said.

The wording change irked Morris, a former Gurnee trustee whose son was a Marine killed in Iraq in 2004.

"Specifically eliminating the military is unacceptable," Morris said.

Bart, Morris and the trustees talked about adding the phrase "armed forces" to a section of the text as a way to honor those troops. No final decision was made, but officials sounded optimistic.

"It looks like we're one step closer there, and that's where we need to be," Bart said.

The proposal may come up again when the board meets Aug. 18.


Construction of the memorial began last month. The centerpiece will be a beam salvaged from one of the fallen World Trade Center buildings.

The steel relic will stand upright on a pentagonal platform. Walls, benches and plantings are planned, too.

Morris' ongoing efforts to create a memorial in Lake County were inspired by his late son, Marine Pfc. Geoffrey Morris. An initial effort to build it in Gurnee fell apart a few years ago.

The proposed inscription recognizes Kirk Morris' efforts and Geoffrey Morris' death.

The plaque's text wasn't the only source of controversy during Monday night's discussion.

Trustee John Barbini raised concerns about proposed panels that will describe the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the 9/11 attack and the memorial's elements, saying trustees haven't seen any text for them.

"When is this all going to get done?" Barbini said. "The clock is ticking."

He reminded the trustees and the audience that, under the development deal with Morris' Heroes of Freedom foundation, the board has final approval of the text for the memorial.

"Let's get it down in writing," he said.

Barbini also pointed out the memorial becomes village property when it's completed, so it's important to get the details right.

Trustee Linda Starkey agreed, saying the board isn't going to approve text "that's not appropriate."

Morris spoke positively about the memorial Tuesday on Facebook.

"We still have work to do, but the project is coming along and looking very nice," Morris wrote.

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