Nonetheless, the local veterans that worked for the past three years to build the Fallen Heroes Memorial marched on.
Ken Kelly, a retired U.S. Navy lieutenant commander and co-chairman of the fundraising effort for the memorial, said it was fitting to dedicate it on the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day.
Kelly told the crowd of a couple hundred people — many veterans and a contingent from the U.S. Coast Guard in their dress uniforms — that he remembers listening to the radio newscast of the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on Dec. 7, 1941. Kelly was a 16-year-old Coopersville High School student at the time.
A year and a half later, Kelly said he enlisted in the Navy and was quickly put into service with the Seabees (Construction Battalion) in the Pacific during World War II. He said the memory of the dead Americans sent home in body bags has never left him.
“I felt that the soldiers who were killed never got the honors they deserved,” Kelly said.
After the World War I memorial was relocated to Central Park from the old Ottawa County Courthouse parking lot across the street, Kelly and other members of the local American Legion and VFW posts decided to create a memorial for local men and women who died in the line of duty during World War II. That drive grew to include local dead from the ensuing wars.
“So that way we got all the wars behind us and we’re going to leave it open,” Kelly said in front of the memorial. “Hopefully, we don’t have any more that we have to put names up here for, but it’s available.”
The memorial was installed in the southeast corner of Central Park on Nov. 14.
To read more of this story, see today’s print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.