IOWA CITY — An Iowa City father and son who each served in a World War will be two of veterans honored thanks to an expansion of the Johnson County Armory and Veteran Memorial.
The Johnson County Commission of Veterans Affairs last month launched an initiative called “Pave the Way: Operation Expand Memorial.” The commission is taking $100 reservations for old downtown Iowa City Pedestrian Mall bricks from people hoping to honor a veteran at the memorial.
“I just think that these guys put out a lot and some people forget about them now,” said Robert White, who purchased bricks for his father and both grandfathers. “I just think it’s nice putting something down there to kind of remember and honor these guys that gave a big chunk of their life.”
The engraved bricks will be laid as two raised brick beds to expand the Armory and Veterans Memorial at 913 S. Dubuque St. and debuted at a Veterans Day ceremony this year. The memorial currently has 594 engraved bricks and will expand by another 280.
“It’s a place to honor veterans…,” said Gary Boseneiler, director of Johnson County Veterans Affairs. “It’s a place to reflect and show our respect to military members who volunteered to serve and a lot more.”
Friends or family can reserve a brick to honor any veteran, not just those who are Johnson County residents. So far, Boseneiler said 25 new bricks have been sold.
White’s paternal grandfather, William J. White, was a World War I veteran.
He was born Feb. 14, 1885, in what was then the Dakota Territory. William White moved to Iowa City with his mother before joining the Iowa National Guard in 1905. In 1918, during WWI, he was stationed on the Mexican border with B Co., 2nd Battalion of the U. S. Guards, according to his biography.
After his military service, he went on to be elected as the Iowa City Assessor. He died in 1948.
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Because William White died just a year after Robert White, who is 71, was born, he used mostly military records to piece together his grandfather’s biography for the memorial.
Robert White’s father, also named Robert “Bob” White, served with the U.S. Army during World War II.
Bob White, who was born in 1917, served in North Africa and Italy throughout the war and earned a number of honors including a Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Ribbon as well as seven Overseas Service Bars and two Service Stripes, among other awards.
Once he returned home, Bob White worked in the Iowa City Post Office. He died in 1981.
The younger Robert White said his father hardly spoke of his military service, so he used military records to learn about his service as well.
“He was in the service clear through World War II because he was in the National Guard already when Pearl Harbor got bombed immediately and then he was overseas until the end of the war,” said the younger Robert White, who still lives in the Iowa City area.
The younger Robert White was never in the service but serves as the family’s historian because of his interest in genealogy.
He also reserved a brick for his maternal grandfather, Linus J. Yeggy, who served in the Army during WWI.
Other honorees already signed up for the brick expansion include a Medal of Honor recipient and an Air Force two-star general.
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The veterans memorial also serves a secondary purpose. It’s located at the site of an old National Guard training Armory, which was built in 1937 and destroyed during the 2008 floods, Boseneiler said.
“The memorial was created not only to honor Johnson County veterans and supporters, but also to educate the public on the history of the armory,” according to a news release.
The structure already includes interpretive signage, the facility’s original cornerstone and medallions of the crests of each unit stationed there at the time of the armory’s construction.
People who wish to honor a veteran with a brick can sign up at johnson-county.com/memorial.
Boseneiler said he’s hoping to officially open the expanded memorial with a ceremony on Veterans Day.
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