Tis the season that I tend to find myself grateful for the gifts and blessings in my life. I have written about how much Christmas means to me on these lines before but this month, I am going to write about a group of people that I am eternally thankful for, our veterans. After all, it is their sacrifice that made our freedom and all that we hold so dear possible.
I believe that you can tell a lot about a community by who it honors and whom it remembers. We hold up our veterans’ service and sacrifice as our top priority with events, memorials and partnerships. This past year 2023 was a banner year in the celebration of those whose service means so much. The City of Mishawaka partnered with our friends at the VFW Post 360 for the triumphant return of our great hometown tradition, the Mishawaka Memorial Day Parade and festivities. I am always inspired by volunteers who gather to place thousands of flags or wreaths at veteran’s markers at our cemeteries. In fact, I just joined hundreds of volunteers just this past Saturday (12/16) in placing thousands of wreaths on the markers and headstones of Mishawaka veterans as part of Wreaths Across America. I take particular pride in placing wreaths on the graves of my grandfathers (both veterans of World War II) and my Great-grandfather (a Belgian immigrant that fought for the U.S. Army in World War I). It is a truly inspiring event that happens on an annual basis before the Christmas Holiday. In fact, it has become one of my favorite Christmas traditions.
Not only do we honor our veterans with great events, ceremonies and banners, hung from streetlights downtown between the Memorial Day and Veterans Day holidays, but we have built many monuments to honor our veterans all over the Princess City.
Our newest monument is currently under construction in historic Battell Park along our parade route and I couldn’t be more excited about it. It is an extension of our Veterans Plaza, appropriately located at the beginning of Liberty Drive. There will be a veterans walk extending west of our Civil War Soldiers and Sailors monument. It will have 15 educational displays highlighting Mishawaka’s contributions to the various wars in American history. It will also have many benches and overhanging trees, meant to be a contemplative space where our citizens can reflect on the sacrifices made by their friends, neighbors or loved ones. At the west end of the walk will be a new monument and on it will be the names of all our war dead etched in granite for permanent display. On top of the monument will be an eternal flame, like the one at Arlington Cemetery. We hope to have the project done, ready to dedicate by Memorial Day 2024.
The Veterans Walk will be made of brick pavers, and you can play a permanent, vital part in its construction. We have made bricks available for our citizens to purchase and have etched with the name, rank, branch and years of service of your Mishawaka veteran loved ones. Bricks will be sold at cost of $75 each. It is important that we honor and memorialize veterans. It is equally important that we care for those who sacrificed as well as experienced unspeakable trauma because of their service to our Nation. For that reason, we have partnered with Mishawaka Troop Town, a unique new transitional housing and services program that will assist veterans that are struggling and need fundamental care. Mishawaka Troop Town is under construction on Jefferson Blvd, next to the VFW Post 360. February is the deadline to purchase bricks and you can find information about the program at our website, www.mishawaka.in.gov.
As we stand on the threshold of a new year, I find myself filled with gratitude and hope for our remarkable community. I recognize that none of it would be possible without the sacrifices made by our veteran heroes. As your Mayor, it is both an honor and a privilege to reflect on some of the achievements of the past year. In coming issues, I’ll talk about possibilities that lie ahead for our beloved city as we enter the New Year and next 4-year term.
Wishing you and your loved ones a joyful New Year filled with prosperity, good health, and the boundless possibilities that come with a fresh start.
Yours in Mishawaka,
Mayor Dave Wood