An unusual ribbon cutting officially unveiled the newly renovated Veterans Memorial Building in downtown Cedar Rapids Tuesday.
The “ribbon” was actually camouflage netting used by American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Instead of scissors, retired U.S. Gen. Tommy Franks used a World War I rifle bayonet from the Eastern Iowa All Veterans Memorial Museum to cut the netting.
“What an honor it is to stand in this place with all of you to reopen something that is so precious to Iowa, to Cedar Rapids, to America,” Franks said.
Franks was the U.S. general leading the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. As commander of the allied forces in the Persian Gulf, he oversaw the Iraq War from U.S. Central Command in Qatar. He retired in July 2003.
His keynote address marked the end of $18.5 million in renovations to the building, which was damaged in the flood of 2008. The building that once housed City Hall will now be dedicated to space for veterans services and venue and office space rentals.
The renovation was funded through $15.3 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, $3.1 million in state I-JOBS funds and $100,000 in state Jumpstart funds for the building’s boiler system.
“This is the people’s building,” Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett said. “It is owned by the people of Cedar Rapids.”
Before speaking at the ribbon cutting, Franks attended a veterans career summit taking place in the building’s lower level. He said the building represented the town’s commitment to recognizing and supporting Eastern Iowa’s armed servicemen and women.
“Men and women like you have chosen to serve at great cost to themselves, to their families,” he told the many veterans in the small crowd that gathered under the building’s towering Grant Wood stained glass window. “Without you veterans, America would have no past, and therefore would have no future.”
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