116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CORALVILLE — The Veterans Memorial in Coralville — which has been in the works for a decade — is nearing completion this year.
Committee member Rex Brandstatter, who has been involved since 2012, said the project is at the “5-yard line.”
“It's been a long, enlightening, informative, educational journey,” he added.
The memorial is off Interstate 80 on First Avenue, next to Oak Hill Cemetery and the Iowa Firefighters Memorial. It is just a few months away from being in its final form.
The memorial committee is working on fundraising the final $50,000 for the $370,000 project. The dollars will go toward ordering six granite medallions, each honoring a branch of the U.S. military, said Sherri Proud, the city’s parks and recreation director who joined the committee as staff liaison in 2019.
The plan is to unveil the completed memorial on Veterans Day, which is Nov. 11. The memorial honors military veterans from anywhere in the country. Veterans — both alive and dead — don’t have to be from Coralville to receive a brick paver to be recognized at the site.
The public can get a look at the site on Memorial Day. The Coralville American Legion, with the Area Legion Color Guard, will have an 11:15 a.m. Monday ceremony at Oak Hill Cemetery, 1290 First Ave. Following the ceremony, attendees are invited, weather permitting, to visit the Veterans Memorial adjacent to the cemetery.
The Veterans Memorial has an aura of its own, Brandstatter said, adding its easy to “get lost in time” when reading the names of veterans. Brandstatter said he’s not a veteran but has been a commander in the Sons of the American Legion for 21 years.
He recalled visiting several cities in Eastern Iowa and seeing various veterans memorials, which reinforced the fact that Coralville needed one. A committee was formed in 2012.
Needing someone to chair the committee, Brandstatter said former Coralville Mayor Jim Fausett was an obvious choice. Fausett, who served as mayor from 1996 to 2013, served in the Korean War. He later died in 2017.
“It was an important project that he loved,” said Diana Lundell, who served on the council for 15 years from 1986 to 2000. She joined the memorial committee in 2019.
She said Fausett was an excellent leader who really understood people’s motivations. It was important to him to have the memorial be citizen-driven and funded by the public, she added.
“We've kept that alive in the way we've operated,” Lundell said. “We've always been soliciting gifts from other organizations. We haven't really relied on any city funding.”
Fausett’s wife, Carol, bought a memorial brick to honor her husband, Brandstatter said. The inscription reads: “In honor of his love and service to God, country and Coralville.”
Even though it has taken a decade to get the memorial completed, Brandstatter said the committee wanted to get it right and has received lots of community input over the years.
“It's going to be there forever, so there's no reason to get in a hurry and get anything done that’s not correct,” he said.
Lundell said the project has allowed many people to get involved, whether that’s through donations or purchasing a brick.
“It's also been a great way for me and others on the committee, I think, to meet a lot more Coralville people and also help them memorialize their loved ones,” Lundell added.
The memorial includes a “Patriot Circle” that recognizes donors who have given more than $5,000 in funds or in-kind services, Proud said. “Freedom Plaza” is where veterans are recognized. There is also a “tribute walkway.”
The site chosen for the memorial was the best one possible, Brandstatter said. It allows anyone driving by to see it, people can find it easily and it’s right next to the Iowa Firefighters Memorial.
"So many people have found out about it that they've called their relatives,“ Brandstatter said. ” … It's becoming, if you will, sort of a little community of veterans.“
The memorial will have room for expansion down the line if needed, and there are still bricks available for those who want to honor a veteran in the memorial, Brandstatter said.
Those interested in donating or ordering a brick, should visit coralvilleveteransmemorial.org for more information.
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