Veterans arrive in force to support memorial

Terry Hapke summed up the Sheridan Veterans Memorial pretty well.

“It’s a big asset to the community. It makes people think about veterans and it shows how the community feels about veterans,” Hapke said.

A Vietnam veteran, Hapke and several other vets were on hand one recent Saturday to purchase raffle tickets to support that memorial. Selling for $10 each, the winner will receive two Baretta M9A1 .9 mm pistols.

“These are the exact sidearms our troops carry today,” said fundraising chairman and Sheridan Police Chief Chuck Bergeron. “We ordered wood grips so we could get our emblem on them. They are not stock.”

Bergeron said the stock grips will be included. The winning ticket will be drawn during Veterans Day ceremonies in November.

The committee had its first military raffle in 2007. That year a special-edition Springfield Armory M1A 7.62 mm rifle and its handmade rack, built by 75-year-old Ralph Whitecotton, was the prize. With tickets selling for $10 each, slightly more than $10,000 was raised.

The entire memorial has been funded by donations of cash and labor, various fundraisers, and most successfully, the firearm raffles.

Legion member and Vietnam vet Randy Rosengren purchased the first ticket.

“The park shows the patriotic character of our town,” he said. “The emblem that shows the soldier kneeling shows two things. It shows his sadness and the bond between him and his comrades.

“It’s fitting because some gave everything they had,” Rosengren said.

He said he appreciates the work that went into the memorial. “I think it’s great; it’s nice for veterans.”

Montgomery veteran, and recipient of two Purple Hearts, Ronnie Limes said the memorial means a lot to him.

“It’s a place where I can relax and reflect on those who couldn’t come home,” Limes said.

“It gives all vets a place to go to pay their respects to others who rose to the challenge of securing our freedoms,” said Bob Acosta, Vietnam veteran and commander of the Sheridan American Legion.

Now disabled due to the effects of exposure to Agent Orange, Acosta said no one asks to go to war.

Veteran Dick Rissman served as helicopter door gunner during 18 months in Vietnam. He called the memorial a tribute to all who have served.

While the Vietnam veterans were not welcomed home with open arms after their tours of duty, all those on hand said they are among the biggest supporters of today’s veterans.

“Age-wise, most of the guys on motorcycles welcoming veterans with parades are Vietnam vets,” Rissman said.

“The whole atmosphere now for people that served is uplifting. It’s uplifting for all of us,” Hapke said.

“I try not to look at the past. I support our veterans as much as I can,” Limes said.

For more information about raffle tickets, contact Bergeron at 815-496-2186, Sheridan Village Hall at 815-496-2251 or visit sheridan-il.us.

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