Friday, September 2, 2011

Veterans to dedicate Custer memorial

Ceremony Saturday to include skydivers, brass band

Express Staff Writer

The Veterans of Custer County will finally get their memorial this week, as the nonprofit group wraps up a 13-year process with the memorial's dedication.

The memorial will be unveiled with a ceremony beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 3, at the Land of the Yankee Fork State Park Visitor's Center at the junction of state Highway 75 and U.S. Highway 93 just south of Challis.

Sharron Akers, director of the Veterans of Custer County Memorial, said the organization has worked for over a decade to raise funds for the memorial's construction.

"Thirteen years of hard work has gone into this," she said, adding, "It has been worth it, and our veterans deserve it."

The memorial contains 11 panels with more than 2,300 names of Custer County veterans.

Seven flagpoles surround a viewing bench, with the 40-foot center pole displaying the U.S. flag, the Idaho state flag and a missing in action/prisoners of war flag. Military flags commemorating different branches of the armed forces will adorn the other six poles.

The highlight of the event will be a parachute jump by the Ranger Group Veteran Parachute Team. Based out of North Carolina, the team is headed by retired Army Sgt. First Class Dana Bowman.

Bowman was a Special Forces solider and member of the Golden Knights elite parachute team until a 1994 skydiving accident killed a comrade and left Bowman with both legs severed from his body. Bowman re-enlisted in the Army only nine months later, and is the first double amputee to do so.

Bowman will give the keynote speech and with fellow Sgt. First Class Michael Elliot and other members of the skydiving team will deliver flags to the memorial's seven flagpoles.

Music for the event will be provided by the 25th Army Brass Band. Founded in 1925, the band was stationed in Caldwell, Idaho, in 1956 and moved to Gowen Field, Boise, in 1988. The band will play each military division's song as the flags are raised.

Living Custer County veterans will also be honored during the dedication.

The ceremony will be free and open to the public. Attendees must bring their own chairs and park at the museum or campground across the street rather than at the visitor center.

Akers said the dedication will be an event to remember.

"[It will be] a morning of amazing and exciting entertainment and of heartfelt appreciation for those who have and are now serving our country," she said.

Katherine Wutz:

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