War Monument Worth Saving, Let’s All Chip In

You may have read in Tuesday’s Journal-Standard about a new effort by Ron Werntz to raise funds for the restoration of the Soldiers’ Monument at the courthouse. I’d like to ask you to support Ron, because his vision may just bring us the breakthrough we need.

In a sense, the monument is our face to the world. Postcards have featured it for decades, it has appeared on promotional publications of every type; it’s even the featured photo on the Wikipedia page for Freeport. I find this to be quite appropriate. It embodies what I once described as the “humble greatness” of our city and county.

It’s built of local limestone, not marble or polished granite, and yet it soars. The statues of fighting men arrayed around it represent the four divisions of combat arms of their day: artillery, cavalry, infantry and Navy. Designed to represent typical veterans from our area, you might say they represent the “grunts” of the time. Yet the men they represent made great sacrifices, braved great dangers, traveled great distances and accomplished great things, and proudly stand seven feet tall as a result. Their features were intentionally designed to be Germanic, to represent the many humble immigrants who came from that part of Europe to the shores of the Pecatonica with little or nothing…and proceeded to build everything.

Most importantly, it holds 3,156 humble names. Names like Adams, Brewer, Haas and Putnam. Not princely names, just the names of guys who knew their country needed servants and said, “Here am I, send me.”

A humble handful of local citizens have been doing great work against daunting odds to raise money for the restoration and raise the profile of the monument. They need our help to get over the hump and pay proper honor to those names. The estimated cost of restoring the monument and once again placing a statue of Victory at its peak is about $150,000.

I think we can hit that goal by crowdfunding it.

Crowdfunding seems like a new Internet buzzword, but it’s just a new form of the individual investing used to fund large projects for centuries. English expeditions to the New World were often funded by individual investors; we crowdfunded polio out of existence by asking each child to donate a dime to the effort. Eighty-five million Americans crowdfunded 16 million servicemen and women in WWII with war bonds. Today, sites like Kickstarter have allowed people from across the planet to pool their funds toward creative or charity projects, sometimes with astonishing results. When cartoonist Rich Burlew started a Kickstarter page to put one of his “Order of the Stick” books back into print he ended up with over $1.2 million in pledges. Most of the pledges were in the $10-25 range. Game designer Monte Cook set out to raise $20,000 to publish a new game and is at $500,000 and counting.

There are over 47,700 people in our county. If we each donated $5, that would fund the monument with $88,000 left over. We have approximately 1,100 employers and over 2,500 “non-employer establishments.” What if each of those nearly 4,000 businesses donated just $50? What if each non-profit in the county held an additional chili supper or silent auction? What if every classroom in the county adopted this cause? The County can also add to these monies from its budget.

Together, with minimal sacrifice, we can honor the greatest sacrifices of all. Come to the Freeport Public Library on Monday at 6pm and let’s get started!

You’re the boss, it’s your MONUMENT. Learn it, live it and support it!