Albia's Welcome Home Soldier Memorial, located along U.S. 34 just down the road east, has been getting quite a bit of publicity lately due in large part to a letter from Americans United for Separation of Church and State. The letter suggests that the 21 marble Latin crosses that are among its features are inappropriate because (a) the memorial is located on publicly owned ground and (b) public money generated by a hotel-motel tax has been designated for it.
I agree. Others don't. That's the way the United States works.
If interested in more on the monument, here's a link to its Web site and another to its Facebook page. Then here's a link to a post on the Americans United blog explaining its position.
A rally in support of the monument has been scheduled for May 15 and I'd expect a good crowd. If I were you, and planned to attend, I'd wear my U.S. Flag t-shirt, not that fetching number with the "Americans United for Separation of Church and State" emblem emblazoned on it.
I'm a little skeptical about the level of support for military veterans in the United States, once you move beyond the abstractions of public monuments and flag-waving moments. Support seems to come and go as wars, and those who served in them, are forgotten.
When I came home from Vietnam, there seemed to be no support --- even veteran organizations that dated from earlier wars were notably silent, even dismissive of this new generation sent off to slaughter for no particular reason.
But for those who really do value veterans and wish to show their support for them, I've got a couple of suggestions.
Friday (May 6) is Iowa's official Vietnam Veterans Recognition Day. There will be a brief program at Iowa's Vietnam Veterans Memorial, located southeast of the Capitol, commencing at 11 a.m. Terry Branstad, governor when the monument was dedicated in 1984 and governor now, will be the principal speaker. A plaque that honors Vietnam veterans who have suffered after-effects from that war --- Agent Orange exposure, post-traumatic stress, etc. --- will be dedicated.
While you're there, take a look at memorials in the area honoring the veterans of other wars, the Revolution, the Civil War, World War I, World War II and Korea among them. They're really very nice and not visited that often.
While you're about it, drive out west of Des Moines on Interstate 35 to the Iowa Veterans Cemetery, an inspiring place where there are memorials to Iowa's veterans of later wars.
Healthcare and other support services for veterans always are an issue. Voice your support for, and encourage your legislators to fully fund, the best veteran healthcare and benefits systems that money can buy. Put your money where your mouth is.
Practice peace, live reconciliation --- and stop screaming.
Show some interest in the graves of veterans buried near you. Follow the example of Mary Stierwalt and the folks at Chariton Monument, for example, who are working the mark the previously unmarked grave in the Chariton Cemetery of Charley Todd.
Or consider the case of Theopolis Gibson, who had no money when he died during 1990, the last survivor of Chariton's historic black community. The Veterans Administration provided a tombstone for Buster, as it will do for any veteran; but there was no one to pay the local cost of installation.
Although I don't know for sure, since I didn't dig, I'm guessing his bronze tablet was just sort of laid on the ground; it's now sunken and runs the risk of being buried entirely one of these days.
It probably wouldn't cost much more than $150 --- the cost to have a veteran name inscribed in black granite on that Albia memorial --- to fix this.