Benton County Veteran's Memorial History
After being involved in organizing an Honor Guard, it was quickly noticed by Les Whittle that there were no Veterans Memorials in all of Benton County. Following an extended trip to the East Coast and visiting such places as Arlington Cemetery, John F. Kennedy’s grave, and other memorials, Les came home and designed a Memorial that stands today. It was to be an all Veterans Memorial, with special honors to the service men and women who were killed-in-action from Benton County, by engraving their names on the Memorial Wall. With the help and support of his late wife, Anita, the Benton County Veterans Memorial (BCVM) became a dream come true. It has created a ripple of love and togetherness for the residents of Benton County. A tribute to loyal friends, Dick Nale, George Horning and Larry Alexander of the BCVM, for over 25 years, were instrumental in assembling the Memorial.
After searching for the right place for the Memorial to be constructed, the Oregon National Guard was approached to see if it would be possible to place the Memorial on the grounds of the Corvallis Armory. Les was referred to the Federal Army Corps of Engineers West Coast office in Seattle, WA. The then, Major James Lyman, was instrumental in guiding Les to make a contact with the person in charge of this area’s facility and ask for an "Out Grant" for the Veterans Memorial. After several phone conversations, forms and letters, the "Out Grant" was approved. With this "Out Grant" for the Memorial, the Federal Corps of Engineers gave the requested site to be used by the Benton County Veterans Memorial. Following the instructions of the Federal Corps of Engineers, the Memorial plot was surveyed and recorded by Professor Bob Schultz of Oregon State University. The surveyed area includes the Memorial site, 24 feet by 30 feet and a 7-feet wide by 85 feet long sidewalk running along the front entrance of the Memorial. The sidewalk was placed and extended to the front door of the National Guard Armory.
The Memorial was to be called the "Benton County Veterans Memorial" honoring those service men and women killed-in-action from WWI to the present time, from Benton County. The Federal Corps of Engineers pointed out that the liability was that of the Benton County Veterans Memorial. Today, the Memorial carries $2,000,000 in liability insurance. The Memorial was totally funded by contributions from the residents of Benton County. It is maintained and all other costs are paid for by contributions from the "Friends of the Memorial". The need for the Memorial to be incorporated with the tax status of a 501(c)3 has been completed. Even though the Memorial is on Federal property, the Memorial was constructed meeting or exceeding all city codes. The Memorial is on the grounds adjacent to the Oregon Army National Guard, who also approved the Memorial to be constructed on the south lawn, in front of the south entrance to the National Guard Armory.
The BCVM includes two 25 foot spun aluminum flag poles.
A black granite wall housing 120 military names who were killed in action from WW I to current times. The black wall was patterned after the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C..
The octagon shaped concrete area in front of the black granite wall, was patterned after the WWII Marines Landing of Iwo Jima in Washington, D.C..
In viewing President John F. Kennedy’s Memorial, President Harry S. Truman’s Memorial and a veterans memorial in Les’ hometown of Sedalia, Missouri, they all had an eternal flame, signifying these Veterans who paid the supreme price will never be forgotten. The BCVM has an eternal flame indicating we will never forget those who paid the supreme sacrifice from Benton County, Oregon. Anita Self Whittle was the first to ignite the eternal flame at the Memorial.
The Memorial houses six white granite benches paying tribute to veterans who were killed in action from WWI to present, that were recognized as representing areas of Benton County, Oregon. The six white granite benches from left to right looking into the Memorial: “Vernon E. Schrock”, Agricultural Industry of Benton County, Oregon; “Philip M. Ball”, City of Corvallis; “Robert C. Smith”, first killed from Benton County, Oregon during WWII; “Edward D. Silver”, Monroe, Oregon; “All Veterans Memorial”, All of Benton County, Oregon; “Larry M. Gassner”, Forest Industry of Benton County, Oregon.
Equipped with night time lights lining the sidewalk, granite wall and two flag poles; the lights at night set the Memorial aglow.
With the Memorial being incorporated, giving it its own legal entity, it stands alone with its own Board of Directors. The Memorial is not tied together with any service organization, the National Guard or any other government agency. However, from the beginning, as good neighbors, the Benton County Veterans Memorial has been sensitive to the community events, holding two candle light services in honor of 9-11 and recognizing our local Fireman and Police Officers. Following 9-11, a candle light vigil was held on the Presidents National Prayer Day. Holding Memorial Day Programs for the families and friends of those listed on the Memorial Wall. On Memorial Day, the Oregon Army National Guard has cooperated with the Benton County Veterans Memorial by furnishing chairs, for inside the Armory, for serving refreshments following the ceremony. At the request of the Benton County Veterans Memorial committee, the Oregon Army National Guard has been included in the Memorial Day Program, which has gained them a great deal of free Public Relations by this involvement. There has been a wonderful relationship between the Benton County Veterans Memorial and the Oregon Army National Guard.