By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
As they waited for the rededication of Bowling Green’s veterans memorial in City Park on Monday, Brian Craft and Mike Hammer could not help but reflect on the ironic path of the monument.
The memorial was originally dedicated in 1931 “in honor of the veterans of all wars.” At its base were the engraved words, “Bowling Green has not forgotten.”
But somewhere over that last 86 years, that’s exactly what happened. The memorial, near the entrance of City Park, was surrounded by arbor vitae, with a canopy of branches growing over the top.
“We knew it was there,” said Brian Craft, director of the city’s public service department. “But when you came in to the park, you couldn’t see anything. The eagle at the top was in sorry shape.”
So Craft, along with Mike Hammer from the public works department, took it upon themselves to do exactly what the memorial asked of them.
“It was forgotten, which is ironic since the plaque at the bottom said, ‘Bowling Green will not forget,’” Craft said.
The public service, electric division, and city arborist worked to cut back the overgrown plants, tuckpoint the stone wall, install lighting and flagpoles, and had the eagle at the top returned to its gold coloring.
“They just took ownership of it,” Mayor Dick Edwards said of the public works department. “I really give credit to them. Bowling Green has not forgotten.”
The history of the 1931 memorial was difficult to dig up. But American Legion members Dave Ridenour and Dick Conrad dusted off as much information as possible.
“One of the oldest members of our legion post remembered playing around it on his way to school,” Ridenour said.
The records showed that veterans from the Civil War, Spanish American War and World War I took part in the dedication. The monument now adds to memory those who served in World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ridenour thanked Craft and Hammer for their efforts.
“I believe we are living up to the inscription at the base of the memorial,” Ridenour said. “Bowling Green has not forgotten.”
State Senator Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, spoke about the original dedication in 1931. None of those who took part in the ceremony are living today. But the monument has regained its place of prominence.
“This is again another example of what Bowling Green does right,” Gardner said.
The original memorial was possible with funding raised by the Exchange Club. Jennifer Swope, the club’s current president, talked about the group’s continued support of Americanism.
“We owe a debt of gratitude” to those honored by the memorial, Swope said.
Edwards also took a moment to reflect on the anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001. “May we always remember what happened 16 years ago at this hour when we lost so many of our fellow Americans, when our vulnerabilities as a nation were exposed, when our first responders put the needs of others first as they are trained and committed to do.”
He also repeated praise for the city’s public works department, which “recognized the need to rediscover this overgrown and neglected memorial site and to return it to its more fitting original state of appearance.”
Wreaths for different generations of veterans were placed at the memorial, including those from Fallen Timbers, American Legion Post 45 and American Legion Auxiliary Post 45. “God Bless America” was sung by Evie Van Vorhis. A salute by a firing squad was performed by the 14th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Civil War re-enactors. And Taps was played by Ryan Holley.