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'Freedom Borne' ready for veterans memorial

As U.S. military personnel risk their lives in the name of freedom in Iraq, citizens will be coming to Coupeville Monday to remember those who have made similar sacrifices in past wars.

This year’s ceremony takes place in a new location, at “Freedom Borne,” the new Veterans Memorial which is finally finished and ready to be viewed near county buildings in Coupeville.

The monument is nestled in the northeast corner of the recently-remodeled county Annex building. The site allows the morning sun to shine directly on the five bronze panels.

Each panel provides a snapshot of aspects of a soldier’s life.

For example, the center panel highlights a wounded soldier being carried out of battle.

“It shows that these men and women are out there preserving our freedom,” said Bill Ethridge, chairman of Island Arts for Veterans, the nonprofit organization responsible for the fund-raising and design of the memorial.

The panels themselves were produced by Seattle artist John Sisko whom Ethridge describes as a nationally known sculptor.

Ethridge said Sisko used live models for each of the panels and that it should sufficiently represent all service people.

“We did that purposely so it will cover all branches of the service,” Ethridge said.

Directly behind the panels will be flags of all six branches of the military, the POW-MIA flag and the American flag.

Memorial bricks, inscribed with the names of local veterans, comprise the floor of the memorial, which is easily accessible from a nearby parking lot.

“I have a tremendous feeling of pride that Island Art for Veterans has completed their goal,” said Coupeville resident Benye Weber. “We need a place like this.”

Weber purchased several bricks to commemorate her family’s military service. Her father, Ben Jones, husband, John and son, Ted, are all named on separate bricks that can be seen at the memorial.

The bricks were part of the fund-raising efforts for the project. Residents can still purchase inscribed bricks to remember a loved one who served or died in the military.

Ethridge said Island Arts for Veterans needs to do a little more fund-raising to pay for the legal fees associated with disbanding a nonprofit organization since the memorial is complete.

Island Art for Veterans worked for more than three years to raise money, design and build the memorial.

During that time, a grassroots fund-raising effort was carried out. Appealing directly to people and contacting businesses as well, Island Arts for Veterans raised more than $80,000 for the memorial, Ethridge said.

Since the memorial was placed on public property, Island County helped with the construction.

Island County Public Works Director Bill Oakes said the county erected the wall and the seats for the memorial, which fits in nicely with the $1.9 million remodel of the annex that was completed in September.

“The county commissioners were behind us 100 percent,” Ethridge said.

Island Art for Veterans supplied the bronze panels and inscribed bricks.

The town of Coupeville is hosting the ceremony as part of its recognition of Veterans Day.

“We’re going to have a fairly brief ceremony,” said Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard.

The Coupeville Middle School and High School band is scheduled to perform.

Conard said Commissioner Mike Shelton and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen will speak during the event.

A Whidbey Island Naval Air Station color guard will be on hand along with representatives from area veterans groups.

Conard said an official dedication of the memorial took place last Veterans Day in the Coupeville High School Gymnasium when the panels were displayed for the first time.

This is the town’s third year of Veterans Day ceremonies and Conard said its important that such holidays remain more significant than simply a day off.

Coffee and cookies will be available in the commissioners’ hearing room following the ceremony.

Remember vets

Coupeville’s Veterans Day ceremony takes place Monday, Nov. 10, at 2 p.m. at the Veteran’s Memorial in front of the Island County Annex building.

Other Whidbey Island ceremonies include:

Oak Harbor Veterans Day ceremony: Tuesday, Nov. 11, at 11 a.m., Maple Leaf Cemetery. Whidbey Island Naval Air Station commanding officer Capt. Stephen Black and Oak Harbor Mayor pro tem Danny Paggao are scheduled to speak.

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 782 program: Tuesday, Nov. 11, 6:30 p.m., Clinton Progressive Hall. Program will include a reading the names of 121 US military personnel who have been killed in Iraq.

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