Over the last couple of weeks I have been asked on several occasions for a copy of my comments at the unveiling ceremony.
Soon after World War I ended there was a movement to create a route across the country, roughly along the 40th parallel. The route was called the Victory Highway. The idea was that along the route, whenever it crossed a county line a memorial would be placed. Each memorial would be identical; a bronze eagle, hovering at the edge of a nest, with wings spread out, protecting two eaglets. A bronze plaque listing the fallen heroes from each county was to be attached to the memorial. For whatever reason only six memorials were created. One was placed at the intersection of Bridgehead Road and Main Street and dedicated in 1926. It stood at that location for 50 years. In 1976, a new bridge was constructed. During this construction the memorial was removed.
In 1999 the city of Oakley incorporated. In 2007 the new Civic Center was completed that included a park. The original design of the Civic Center had the council chamber located between the oak trees. New City Manager Bryan Montgomery tinkered with this design, moved the council chambers and created the park. The corner of Norcross and Main was left for a future memorial.
A few years later Councilmember Pat Anderson and I were told of the missing memorial. We found it in plain sight – at the entrance to the fairgrounds in Antioch. We both thought it would be great addition to our community and should be returned to Oakley. We attended the board meeting for the fairground and asked them to return the memorial. We were basically told that possession was nine tenths of the law and that we couldn’t have it back. By the way, none of the six memorials currently sit where they were originally located.
The pursuit for a new memorial began with a discussion I had with Nicholas Welzenbach. Nicholas is the managing partner of the Oak View Memorial Cemetery who immediately suggested we contact Bobby Mattos of Bras & Mattos Monument Company. We met with Bobby and had some discussions, then brought in the Patriot Sentinel Riders for consult and together we developed a concept for this memorial. The concept was then taken to the Oakley City Council, who unanimously approved it. Our thanks to Bras & Mattos for their insight and hard work in the creation of the memorial.
With a concept in hand and dollar figure of $70,000 we needed a fiscal sponsor before we could raise money. If you ever wondered why you were writing checks out to Wingz to Fly Inc, Wingz to Fly was the fiscal sponsor of the project. Our thanks go out to Josie Monaghan, who operates the East County Veterans and Military Families in Antioch, who graciously allowed use of Wingz to Fly for the project’s fiscal sponsor.
With that detail resolved we were ready to raise the funds. Stepping up to the task was the Patriot Sentinel Riders, in particular Dick Lamb and Jeff Denny, who took to the streets, more accurately, the grocery stores to solicit community donations and brick sales. Their efforts increased the Memorial’s visibility and ultimately resulted in dollars coming in to help finance the memorial.
After a few months, the fundraising efforts of our 2 person team slowed down. We needed new ideas and helpers to execute them. Up stepped Laura Cunha, of Stonecrest Lending, also known as the VA specialist who not only sponsored one of the Memorial benches, but also helped reenergize our fundraising efforts by offering her Staff to pull off fundraising tasks and furthermore, donated a brick for every mortgage loan closed in 2014. Her contributions exceeded over $6,500.
At about the same time, we launched a business sponsorship program. 250 letters were sent out to Oakley’s business community to request their financial support. Three sponsorship levels were made available Gold- being $5,000, Silver, being $3000 and Bronze, being $1000. These businesses will forever be associated with this tribute that was made possible in great part because of their generosity.
Chevron (Boparai Plaza)
La Costa Taqueria
Terra Care Associates
Diablo Vista Dental Care-
Please remember to thank them next time you visit their establishments.
So it came time to build the memorial! Turns out these beautiful pillars weigh 3,000 pounds a piece! The existing foundation wouldn’t have been able to support their weight without cracking. At this point we engaged the Swisher Concrete brothers to request quotes for the demolition and repaving of a new foundation. They enthusiastically accepted to help. That “Yes” turned out to be more expensive than originally planned. In an effort to express our gratitude, and still falling short we added the Platinum Sponsorship level for these gentlemen. Also making the Platinum sponsorship level is Bear Electrical Solutions. Thanks to Bear Electrical Solutions who provided the lighting for the Memorial, which again was a plentiful donation of labor and materials.
I would be remiss not to mention one final person. Her persistence to detail is unparalleled. Her dogged determination to ensure that bricks and benches were correctly inscribed helped alleviate potential problems for families on this day of celebration. I can honestly say that without Nancy Marquez the project would not have been completed by this date. Thank you Nancy.
To wrap it up, thank you to all who purchased a brick that is now a part of this memorial. We are working on a process to sell bricks. We recently ran into complications. You can pick up an order form and leave contact information at the city booth.
Here’s what we will do-
We’ll unveil the Eagle first. This will be done by representative of the supporting businesses.
Doing the honors of unveiling each of the Branch columns are retired or active duty service personnel.
Coast Guard- Petty Officer Phillip Will
Air Force -Senior Master Sergeant Jeffrey Jacobsen
Navy- retired Lieutenant John Fulton
Marine Corps- retired First Sergeant Eugene Lopez
Army- Ret. Sergeant Randy Smith, President of the Veterans of Oakley