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City council gives nod for veterans memorial expansion

The American Legion's proposal to expand the Jerry Taylor Veterans Memorial received an initial nod from the Sunnyside City Council Monday night.

Walter George, Commander of American Legion Post 73, told council the memorial would provide an opportunity for all veterans to be recognized, whether or not they served in combat.

In reference to the veterans memorial at the cemetery, which George said lacks space for additional name markers, he noted that only those who served in combat are recognized at that site.

"As any of you who served in the military know, you don't choose where you serve," George said. He pointed out that several local veterans served during the Vietnam and Korean wars, but saw no combat duty because they were assigned to a post in the U.S. or in Europe.

"They all served, they should be recognized," he said. George added that those who served in the National Guard or Army Reserve would also be eligible to have a plaque in their honor.

"This is a great idea on your part," Councilman Paul Garcia said. "There are a whole chain of people behind those serving up front."

The proposal for the revamped Taylor memorial at Ninth Street and Edison Avenue calls for memorial markers, similar to those at the veterans memorial in the cemetery, to reflect veterans who have served, as well as those missing and killed in action. Memorial markers to prisoners of war, Pearl Harbor and the twin towers are also planned.

The American Legion plans to raise the funds to erect the monuments via the sale of name plaques costing $300 each.

Council was generally favorable to the request, with Mayor pro tem Jim Restucci commenting, "This is a very good show of respect for the veterans."

Councilwoman Carol Stone, though, brought up concerns from citizens regarding removal of the lawn and roses at the downtown site. George explained that the memorial would only require the removal of vegetation, including the roses, from a one block area between Edison and Franklin avenues.

"It says in your proposal that you want to be prepared for the next 100 years of war," Stone added. "I also hope we're planning for 100 years of peace."

Councilman Bruce Epps expressed concern for those who can't afford $300 to have their loved one remembered. He suggested the city chip in $2,500 this year and next for a fund dedicated to those who don't have the money for a plaque.

City Manager Bob Stockwell said money could be found in the budget, and even noted there is a precedent since the city helped with the veterans memorial at the cemetery. "It would be public funds to help improve public property," he said of aiding the new memorial proposal.

During citizen comment, Bengie Aguilar asked what would become of the roses that currently line the Taylor memorial.

"Those have been kept up and they're so pretty when they bloom," she said. "Is there a way they could be moved some place else?"

George replied they are available for whoever would have a use for them.

Discussion on the memorial proposal closed, with council unanimous in moving forward with the idea.

Mayor Ed Prilucik asked Stockwell to meet with George and come up with a working agreement for moving forward on the plan.

Stockwell indicated the Sunnyside/American Legion agreement would be delivered to council in phases for further review.

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