DeWitt Veterans Memorial is result of community efforts

Over the last decade, the people of DeWitt have come together in support of their veterans. Donating labor, concrete, construction equipment and even property came as second nature to the community when the DeWitt Memorial Veterans Inc. announced plans to improve a vacant lot and build an impressive monument on the north side of town.

“I felt there was a need in the community to recognize the service of people in the military, regardless of when they served,” said Mike Osmun, who organized the group in 2008. Osmun is a Navy veteran who served aboard a destroyer escort and was based in San Diego from 1972 to 1975. The four other board members, who have stuck with the project from its beginnings, are Navy veteran Bob Rands, Army veterans Verlyn Scheckel and Rich Dunkin, and Air Force veteran Steve Mosier. The project was advised by Bob Hansen, former owner of Hansen Monuments, who served the Marines in Camp Pendleton and 29 Palms from 1956 to 1960.

The City of DeWitt donated the property where the new monument would be located. Though they had to wait five years for truckloads of fill to settle into the landscape before they could begin building, the DeWitt Memorial Veterans Inc. started fundraising straightaway. That patience paid off, and the monument Osmun envisioned now stands proudly on the site.

A central granite pillar is ornately etched with images unique to each of the five branches of the U.S. military, and paved spokes radiate outward to connect each side with a stone service marker and flag for that branch. The pavers on these five paths bear the names of DeWitt area veterans. Paver sales were one of the many ways funds were raised for the construction of the monument. Grants were written, and donations started rolling in as the community embraced the project.

“I had a gentleman ask me how much the service markers cost. They’re not cheap,” said Osmun. “He sat down and wrote me out a check for two of them on the spot.” Others purchased flag poles or shrubbery, volunteered their time and offered professional services.

Pat Henricksen, executive director of the LincolnWay Community Foundation, worked with Nancy and Wayne Stuedemann to establish the Stuedemann DeWitt Veteran’s Memorial Endowment Fund for annual maintenance at the two-acre site. “Nancy and I were more than impressed with the outpouring of volunteer efforts and donations that allowed the DeWitt Area Veterans Memorial to be constructed at such a magnificent level of scale and quality,” said Wayne Stuedemann. “It is a fitting tribute to all of our area veterans and honors the significant sacrifice given in service to their country in order to preserve our freedom.”

The DeWitt Memorial Veterans have created a living memorial used by those wishing to formally honor veterans. A group of veteran motorcyclists held a rally at the site, and a national group of Navy Seabee veterans traveled from a reunion in Davenport to hold a ceremony and lay a wreath at the Navy section of the monument.

Though work at the monument may appear to be complete, the DeWitt Memorial Veterans continue their efforts at the site. This spring, the group will set a four-foot tall by six-foot long granite slab bearing service logos for military units. In preparation for Veterans Day, new pavers with names of veterans are being added.  

An affiliate of the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, LincolnWay Community Foundation assists in charitable projects and programs that contribute to the quality of life in rural Clinton County, Iowa. The Foundation provides grants, scholarships, tax benefits and administration services to organization churches, schools and individuals with charitable intent in the following areas: Calamus, Charlotte, Delmar, DeWitt, Goose Lake, Grand Mound, Lost Nation, Low Moor, Welton and Wheatland. 

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Founded in 2002, the Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque strengthens communities and inspires giving. We are dedicated to improving the quality of life throughout Northeast Iowa by serving donors, making grants to local nonprofit organizations, and providing community leadership through convening and collaboration. Guided by the values of integrity, equity and inclusion, collaboration, excellence and innovation, we seek to ensure a vibrant and inclusive Greater Dubuque region with resources and opportunity for all.