Wichita From holding golf tournaments to running marathons to selling granite paving stones, a dedicated group is steadily raising money for a monument to Kansans who have lost their lives to wars starting with 1991’s Operation Desert Storm.
Anita Dixon is leading the campaign to install the Operation Freedom Memorial at Veterans Memorial Park in Wichita. Her son, Army Sgt. Evan Parker, was killed in Iraq in 2005. Dixon began working on the project in early 2010, and fundraising started in June of that year with the formation of a nonprofit foundation.
So far, the group has raised about $63,000 of the estimated $200,000 needed for the project, The Wichita Eagle reported. Dixon hopes to break ground March 1 and have the monument built in time for a dedication on Memorial Day, which is May 28.
“But we need to have all our funds secured before we can start construction,” she said.
Donations have been raised from a variety of sources and undertakings.
A golf tournament brought in $2,400, and Wichita resident Tony Clark — a Marine veteran of Afghanistan — raised $6,000 with a 135-mile run from California’s Death Valley to the top of Mount Whitney.
Augusta resident Denise Lange has raised nearly $10,000 by selling “In Honor of Fallen Soldiers” medallions. Lange’s son, Army Pfc. Erin Thomas, was killed in a 2009 car accident in Texas.
The Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane contributed $21,000 from the revenue it raised during a controlled gambling demonstration before its recent opening.
Nick Williams, a tanker pilot at McConnell Air Force Base who serves on the Operation Freedom Memorial Foundation board, is accepting donations for the miles he logs while running marathons and training for the Boston Marathon. He runs 50 miles a week and has brought in $4,400 so far.
Dixon and Williams say they understand why the campaign is not moving as quickly as earlier fundraising efforts for other war monuments, such as the World War II memorial in Wichita. With World War II veterans dying at a rate of 1,000 per day, there was a sense of urgency to get that monument done.
“Family members wanted to see their members honored and remembered before we lost them,” Dixon said.
By contrast, the Operation Freedom Memorial will honor the sacrifices of the current generation of veterans and service members, many of whom are still deployed overseas.
“Basically, our board is attempting to build this memorial a generation early,” said Williams, who has served in southwest Asia. “Instead of waiting 20 or 30 years for the raw feelings of war to subdue, we’re trying to memorialize those lost while the conflict is current.”
The foundation’s website, updated through Nov. 18, 2011, lists 82 Kansans killed in wars beginning with Operation Desert Storm, when U.S. troops ousted Iraqi troops from Kuwait.