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By MARTHA SMITH
Special to the Standard
EXETER â€“ If the Exeter Veterans Memorial Committee can finish raising $50,000, a long-planned monument to the townâ€™s veterans of all service branches will be placed near the entrance to the municipal library on Ten Rod Road.
â€śItâ€™s been in the works for awhile,â€ť says Dave Owens, committee chairman.
Some years ago, a 10-member panel formed and searched town buildings with the goal of finding the Korean War plaque that had disappeared from its longtime home in front of the town hall. When the investigation came up empty, says Owens, the only reasonable conclusion was that the metal memorial had been stolen and sold for scrap.
He made a pilgrimage to the state archives and â€śwent through all the teletype messagesâ€ť received by families who had lost loved ones in combat. â€śI couldnâ€™t find any from Exeter,â€ť he recalls. â€śI have no idea how many names were on the original plaque.â€ť
As a result, he says, â€śWe decided to make a memorial to all Exeter veterans.â€ť
To garner ideas for how the monument might look the committee approached Elizabeth Lind, who teaches a design class at the high school, and her students began sketching. Their suggestions ranged from the ultra-simplistic to a grand concept that included veteransâ€™ names inscribed underwater in a koi pond.
Meanwhile, Owens traveled to towns throughout Rhode Island and New Hampshire â€śto see what others had done.â€ť
In the end, with the guidance of the late Earl Whitford, who served in World War II and Korea, the committee incorporated elements of the studentsâ€™ work and settled on a 12-foot granite obelisk on a pedestal that will bear images of the town seal and insignias of each branch of the armed forces including Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine.
It will be inscribed â€śIn memory of all who served our great nation in war and in peaceâ€ť with an Exeter banner beneath.
â€śThere were a lot of suggestions,â€ť Owens explains. â€śWhether to list names was debated endlessly. We decided to keep it as simple as possible. We hope to have a war and peacetime list of names [of veterans] in books in the library for people to look at.â€ť
Raising the money to complete the memorial has been painfully slow. As time has worn on, most of the members of the first committee have fallen by the wayside, leaving Owens and two others.
Fundraising has been on a small scale with slightly more than $30,000 accrued through a ham and bean supper, an auction, a spaghetti dinner and, for six years, an annual golf tournament.
â€śJoe Scott, who owns the Pinecrest Golf Course, has been very generous,â€ť says Owens. â€śHe gives the use of the course for the tournament and we hold the dinner and raffle there. Itâ€™s been very successful.â€ť
Among others, he adds, â€śThe volunteer fire department has been our largest single contributor. They had a chowder-and-clam cakes dinner and gave us $1,333.â€ť The town also kicked in $500 and individual committee members made donations.
A Vietnam-era vet who served as a transport corps commander, Owens says of the memorial campaign, â€śThe first phases were easy; finishing it is more difficult. Weâ€™ve made applications [for funds] to banks and foundations and weâ€™ll continue to do that.
â€śThese are tough times but weâ€™re going to keep at it.â€ť
Contributions to the fund drive are tax deductible. Donations can be made to the Exeter Veterans Memorial Committee and mailed to the town hall at 675 Ted Rod Road, Exeter, R.I. 02822.
Martha Smith is an award-winning journalist and author. Retired, she is an independent contractor for SRIN and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.