No money for Chandler war memorial - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

No money for Chandler war memorial

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Posted: Wednesday, September 24, 2008 8:36 pm | Updated: 11:55 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

There is somewhat of an oasis at Chandler's Veterans Oasis Park, but nothing remotely associated with vets.

And while there is an area set aside for a veterans memorial at the 113-acre park, there is no city money budgeted for it and none will be available for a few years.

The city is gearing up anyway to get it built and meeting with East Valley veterans to get their input on the design.

One of the vets, Purple Heart recipient William Harper of Sun Lakes, said that if he gets the city's blessing, he will begin organizing vets to raise funds and begin writing businesses to solicit donations.

"I just don't want this thing dragging on forever," said Harper, 82, a World War II veteran who served in the South Pacific.

The $22 million park at Chandler Heights and Lindsay roads opened in March.

A person can fish, bike or hike there, and a wetland area serves double duty as storage for reclaimed water. The park also includes a police substation and an environmental education center.

The park's naming and the idea for a memorial came after construction was already under way and all the money was appropriated, said Dave McDowell, assistant community services director.

The city will be exploring other ways to fund the memorial since the next bond election, one of the ways cities fund construction projects, is probably three years away, McDowell said.

There are no cost estimates yet, but the construction would involve more than just the memorial.

The site is in the far southwest portion of the park adjacent to the parking lot, and it would require lighting, site access and parking.

Harper said a successful donation drive from businesses would mean less money for the veterans to raise themselves, but the key is to get on it right away because government moves slowly.

Harper helped to get Interstate 40 designated as Arizona's Purple Heart Trail, an endeavor that took almost six years. The state's designation honors all who earned the Purple Heart medal, which is given to military servicemen and women killed or wounded in combat, and is part of a greater effort to stretch the trail across the nation.

"It took a lot of politicking," Harper said.

Harper joined about 26 other veterans Sept. 4 at a meeting with city officials, who asked them to return Oct. 2 with ideas for the memorial.

McDowell said the city has hired a landscape architect to work with the veterans to begin the planning and design.

"We asked them which memorials they've seen that really struck them," McDowell said.

The city prefers a memorial that would include all military branches, combat and noncombat service and not focusing on a particular war or just Chandler veterans.

Edward Mouchette, a retired Army colonel who is a member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8053 in Sun Lakes, said he would like to see something that is unique and would draw visitors to the park.

He also wants to see Iraq and Afghanistan vets involved in the process, saying there is a generation gap that keeps them from joining veterans groups such as the American Legion or VFW. "Their ideas should be in there," Mouchette said. "They're going to be around to see this. The rest of us are going to be gone."

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