By Paul Rogers
Last winter, I heard about the Vietnam Memorial in Punta Gorda, Florida. Curious, on a nice day with nothing on my agenda, I went. I was blown away. Looking at a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in a park next to the Peace River, I thought, “Wow, we should do something in Marshfield.” I know we could not do this million-dollar project, but we should do something.
Friends, we all have them. I am lucky. I think I have one of the best. Tom Merkel is one of the kindest, most generous, caring people I know. Talking to Tom about this memorial in Punta Gorda opened my eyes. I listened for a change. Sometimes I talk too much and listen too little.
Not only did Tom serve, but his brother Rick served also, and his father served in World War II — what a heritage of serving.
Tom is proud he served, and it shows. He is proud to be a member of our American Legion. It shows, and he cares.
When I returned from my winter in Florida, the VFW hall that was up for sale had sold. Then, wham, I did not see it coming: The Knights of Columbus Hall announced it was closing at the end of the year.
The the lights go on, and a bell rings. What about our American Legion hall? I remember the last major improvement upgrade was in the late 1970s, early 1980s. Joe Draxler did the addition. I know from talks with Mike Feirer that they struggle but plug along.
We now have a vision that has turned into a mission:
1. Vietnam Memorial.
2. Honor the Merkels.
3. Help the Legion not only stay viable but thrive and grow with a future.
4. Build an outdoor venue that can add revenue but also memorialize and honor.
“Start with Gordy Schalow,” I first thought. “You know his father Dave was a longtime member of our Legion. What a great guy and gentleman.” What a plan Gordy produces. We had to scale it back some. It got a little bit more pricey than I thought we could handle.
Now what? Make a sizable donation, and talk to Tom’s brother Bob. This is doable. Present it to the membership and then get city permission and a zoning change.
Comfortable with starting pledges and money raised, we are underway. We need more donations. Please help if you can.
This is the perfect spot for a birthday party, wedding reception, or just having an afternoon of enjoyment. Tell your friends. Let us all get excited together. You know the Legion has many events open to the public. Spread the word.
The dedication in May 2018 is going to be nice.