KNOXVILLE, Iowa -- Veterans in Knoxville have put a lot of time, money, and effort into getting this monument. The 150 pound, Vietnam era-style bronze statue has the steel pot helmet, an M16 rifle, and standard issued military boots.
"It symbolizes the fallen soldier. Wherever they died on the battlefield, the rifle was stuck in the ground, the boots were placed there and the helmet was placed on the top," said AMVETS Post 63 Commander Dean Clark.
Ironically, this is the memorial that the vets had planned to put at Youngs Park all along. "Our original plan was to put this up, and we just didn`t have the money, and after the big controversy if you will, we figured we had some money," said AMVETS Post 63 Spokesperson Don Zoutte.
The big controversy began when a silhouette of a soldier kneeling at a cross was placed at Youngs Park earlier this year. Vietnam veteran Al Larsen created the memorial to honor his friend who died fighting in the Vietnam war. "He just, out of the goodness of his heart, he made it, he brought it up gave it to Don, and Don just put it in the park. didn't think anything of it," said Clark.
An anonymous person in Knoxville was reportedly offended by the cross being on government property. Then the Washington D.C. based organization, "Americans United for Separation for Church and State," told the city to remove the cross, and said if the city did not remove the cross it would face a lawsuit. "The other marker`s still out there, but we're waiting for city hall to tell us we've got to move it. We will move it if we have to. It won`t be by choice," said Zoutte.
In the meantime, this new memorial may spark a whole new cross controversy. "We`ll have a rather unique plaque, because ours is going to say 'battlefield memorial,' while every other one that this company makes in the whole world says 'battlefield cross.' We were asked not to put the word cross on it," said Zoutte.
" I think in the context of the controversy around it, we’ve been advised by our attorneys that that would be better that way and we’ve also been in contact with Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which is the group who sent us a letter in the first place, and they have advised us that it would be better to have 'memorial' versus 'cross' for the language for that, to avoid litigation," said Interim City Manager Aaron Adams.
As for the silhouette of a soldier kneeling at a cross at Youngs Park, Adams says the city is still working with its attorneys to figure out the best course of action. The new memorial will be dedicated at Noon on Veterans Day, which is November 11, 2015. There will memorialized bricks at the memorial display from individuals throughout Marion County. Anyone can have a name put on a brick to symbolize someone who is a veteran from Marion County.