Bloomington veterans memorial proposed; fundraiser held to pay for 'unique' memorial

A Bloomington nonprofit is trying to build what it calls the "most unique memorial that's ever been created for veterans."

"Bloomington is the only major suburb that does not have a veterans memorial currently, and we're working to solve that," said Terry Collins, the president of Bloomington Remembers Veterans, Inc.

The group Bloomington Remembers Veterans, Inc., held a fundraiser Sunday night at Nine Mile Brewing Company. The brewery is less than a mile away from Bloomington Civic Plaza, where the group plans to build the new memorial. They want it up and running in just over a year, but it comes with a hefty $750,000 price tag.

"We'd love to get this thing accomplished and finished and dedicated by Veterans Day 2023," Collins said.

With the city's support, the project will be a space for Bloomington veterans and their families.

"Bloomington's a city of 90,000 people, and we don't have a veterans memorial to honor our veterans in town, the people who served so bravely and patriotically for so many years," said Bloomington Mayor Tim Busse.

The design features two symbolic walking paths – one for veterans and the other for their families. The paths meet at a flagpole flying the American and Prisoner-of-War flags. The non-profit’s vice president, Michael Dardis, also said the memorial will feature a "contemplative section."

"Veterans and families can try to deal with some of the stress and some of the loss issues that many of them still have: PTSD, suicide, things like that," Dardis said.

Dardis has been working on this memorial for five years, along with some fellow veterans. He served in Vietnam in 1970.

"Vietnam vets, I think, have a special feeling because of the way that they were treated when they came home. They were neglected, abused and so forth, and the Vietnam vets have been a driving force in making sure that future vets never have that happen to them again," Dardis said.

He said what will make this memorial especially unique is the use of technology. The memorial will have 5-inch-by-7-inch symbolic metal dog tags identifying Bloomington Veterans. The dog tags will have QR codes etched into them, which will lead people on their mobile devices to a special tribute website where veterans and family members have recorded their stories.

Construction is expected to begin in Spring 2023.