Vancouver, Veterans of Foreign Wars join to honor military, keep city clean

Monument added to memorial plaza, which will be dedicated Friday

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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photoThe Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial Plaza, including a black granite monument, will be dedicated Friday.

(/The Columbian)

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If you go

What: Dedication of VFW Plaza.

When: 11 a.m. Friday.

Where: Columbia Street and Phil Arnold Way (southeast of City Hall).

Parking: Fenced lot across the street from the VFW Plaza; enter off Columbia Street.

Add a name: Veterans (or their relatives) can paint their names on a mural panel until 2 p.m.

A black slab of granite that was hoisted into place Wednesday morning provided a finishing touch for a downtown street corner.

It also marked a new stage in a partnership between a veterans group and the city.

The site on the corner of Columbia Street and Phil Arnold Way is city property. When Vancouver designated it as a memorial plaza, both parties benefited, City Councilor Larry Smith said.

It allowed Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7824 to move forward on its project to create a monument to military personnel who have served in overseas conflicts.

The memorial will be dedicated at 11 a.m. Friday.

In exchange, the city got a group of people motivated to keep the area looking good.

Smith was concerned that the area, behind City Hall and along the BNSF Railway line, could get shabby. Budget cuts have made it tough for the city to keep up with maintenance and upkeep, Smith said.

And that section of downtown also can play a big part in what out-of-towners think about Vancouver, Smith said. It's on the direct routes for guests at Red Lion Hotel Vancouver at the Quay who want to see the city center, and for guests at the Hilton Vancouver Washington who want to take a stroll along the Columbia River.

VFW member Roy Billings said he was discussing the issue with Smith, who suggested that the veterans take part in an "adopt a street" agreement.

Billings proposed the memorial plaza, which would tie in nicely with the "Remembrance Wall" panels created by the Clark County Mural Society.

The project cost about $6,000 and was funded by donations, Billings said. Contributors included VFW Post 7824 and another local veterans group, 40 et 8's Voiture 99. Billings also contributed.

The plaza's flagpole came from a former city facility, the Esther Short Building, although the project team had to pay to have it moved and set up at the memorial.

The granite slab that was installed Wednesday morning shares its heritage with another local monument, said Joey Fuerstenberg, operations manager with Vancouver Granite Works. It comes from the same quarry in Pennsylvania that provided the black granite portion of the Clark County Veterans War Memorial at Vancouver Barracks.

Tom Vogt: 360-735-4558; http://www.twitter.com/col_history; tom.vogt@columbian.com