Published On: Thu, Jan 5th, 2017

Veterans Memorial is top story of the year

COLERIDGE — The completion of the Coleridge Veterans Memorial was the biggest story of the year here in 2016.

On a warm Memorial Day afternoon, the street just west of the new Coleridge Area Memorial Plaza was packed with people from across northeast Nebraska as nearly 400 people showed up for the 2 p.m. dedication for the Coleridge Area Memorial Plaza.

Close to 30 American Legion Riders had come into town ahead of the dedication service. A number of the Riders stood at attention holding an American flag on the edge of the Plaza during the ceremony. Their motorcycles were lined up in a row next to the sidewalk behind the crowd.

George Hefner, Chairman of the Coleridge Village Board, welcomed all those who had come for the dedication.

Hefner told how members of the American Legion Post 114 had approached the board a little over a year ago about using the vacant downtown lot for a Veterans Memorial.

Hefner only needed one word to describe how the Memorial on the once vacant lot looks now.

“Wow,” he said.  “The results are remarkable.”

Immanuel Lutheran Pastor Russ Lambert offered the opening prayer for the ceremony. Lambert asked God for peace and justice along with protection for the U.S. Armed Forces and the Veterans at home.

Julie Hefner stirred patriotism in the crowd as she sang the National Anthem.

American Legion District Commander Kenneth Hanel talked about the patriotism that has always been evident in the community.

“The Coleridge Community is known to be one of the most patriotic communities in the nation during World War I and World War II,” he told the crowd.

There were over 100 soldiers with Coleridge addresses who served during WW I while over 200 men and women saw service in different capacities during WW II.

The numbers are impressive considering the population of Coleridge at the time was around 600.

Hanel told how the Memorial Plaza will be a remembrance for future generations.

“Today’s moment began as an idea in someone’s mind, the next step was sharing the idea and asking the community for support. The support and patriotism of the community are shown here today. This is a remembrance for future generations,” Hanel said. “You have brought meaning to the word sacrifice. May God bless America.”

John Hoffart, who served as the Master of Ceremonies, recognized several people during the dedication.

Hoffart is a member of the American Legion Post 114 and had served in the U.S Navy.

“I served in numerous ships while I was in the Navy. It was an honor and a privilege to serve this nation,” he said.

Hoffart honored the World War II veterans from the Coleridge area:  Elroy Hefner, Dean Wilkersen, Gilbert Brummels, Don Heitman, Virgil Bayne and Bob Strivens.

Each veteran received a round of applause as they stood.

Hoffart gave a special thank you to Legion Members Virgil Bayne and Dale Engelman. “They each put in countless hours in getting donations and putting plans in place for the Memorial Plaza,” he said.

Bayne played a huge role in raising funds for the memorial and is responsible for over three hundred bricks with veteran’s names that are on the wall.

Engelman visited Memorials in over thirty towns and cities and did research on the various designs. He put together several concepts to present to the local Legion members who then selected the best one for Coleridge.

The two men were given a round of applause.

Hoffart asked people to remember that every veteran wrote a blank check, which included their life, when they signed up to serve in the military.

“We all need to sit down and visit with some of these veterans. We need to hear their stories and listen as they share their experiences in protecting this county,” Hoffart said.

Father Dave Leiwer gave the closing prayer which included praise and thankfulness.

He prayed for unity among the Christians and asked for a blessing from God the Almighty.

Leiwer thanked everyone who had helped put the Memorial in place in Coleridge.

“I have had the chance to see many Memorials as I traveled across the nation. I have toured cemeteries with graves of American soldiers in other countries,” he said. “This is a beautiful Memorial.”

Bob Hoffman, a member of the American Legion Riders, briefly spoke about the many activities and events the Legion Riders are involved with.

“We support the veterans who served before us, today’s veterans and those that will come after us,” Hoffman said. “We want to honor those who gave all for this country.”