Fallen Heroes Memorial group turns to congressman for help

The committee spearheading the fundraising drive for the Fallen Heroes Monument has turned to Congress for help. U.S. Rep. William Huizenga, R-Zeeland, visited with local veterans and supporters of the project on Monday afternoon at the American Legion Conklin Post 28. While Huizenga couldn't promise federal funding, he did say his staff would investigate foundation funding and grants that might be available for such a cause.
Len Painter
May 10, 2011

Huizenga, whose father and grandfather served in the military, did promise to buy a plaque — with his own money — that will be placed around the memorial.

Local American Legion and VFW members are attempting to raise $150,000 to place a memorial honoring veterans who were killed in action in World War II and wars that followed. The memorial would be located on the southeast corner of Central Park in Grand Haven.

There is already a World War I memorial located on the southwest corner of the park.

Huizenga told the veterans that their causes are “dear to his heart,” as his father is a disabled veteran.

“We want to connect with veterans as much as possible,” he told the gathering. “We’re going to reach out to the veterans.”

Huizenga was visibly moved as he shook hands with some of the veterans who served their country during World War II and the Korean War. “I can’t thank you enough,” he said.

Huizenga also told the veterans that it is important to preserve the histories of those who served their country. The congressman said he grew up attending VFW and American Legion functions with his mother and father.

After being introduced to veterans, Huizenga answered questions on veterans issues. Some of the veterans raised concerns about future funding for veterans programs. Huizenga listened intently to their issues and said he would pass on the concerns to federal officials who deal with such matters.

Ken Kelly, co-chairman of the Fallen Heroes Memorial fundraiser, said he was pleased with Huizenga’s willingness to help their cause. Kelly said he already plans to contact foundations in Grand Rapids to see if funds are available for the memorial.

“We’ll keep working on the project (memorial fundraiser),” Kelly said.

Kelly said he was also impressed with Huizenga’s willingness to listen to veterans concerns about programs. Huizenga told the veterans that he has an aide in Holland who is specializing in helping veterans with their concerns.

American Legion and VFW members launched their fundraising drive in June 2010. Gary Byl, secretary for the Fallen Heroes Memorial committee, said $98,000 has been raised so far.

The plan is to honor veterans from Northwest Ottawa County. Byl said the committee has a list of 105 names that can be added to the memorial, and the committee is in the process of verifying the authenticity of the names.

The committee hopes to have the memorial installed on Nov. 11 — Veterans Day.

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