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 became a dream that came true. It has created a ripple of love and togetherness for the residents of Benton County.
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. The surveyed area includes the Memorial site, 24 feet by 30 feet and a 7-foot 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 $1,000,000 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.
With the Memorial being incorporated, giving it it’s own legal entity, it stands alone with it’s 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 and an inside room 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.
Criteria for entering and engraving names on the Memorial Wall
Soon after the approval of the Benton County Veterans Memorial construction site, by the Federal Corps of Engineers, there was a need to establish some guidelines for placing names on the Memorial Wall. This Memorial was totally funded by Benton County residents and that the Memorial Wall would be reserved for the service men and women of Benton County. The guidelines to engrave names on the Memorial Wall are as follows:
The person must have been a permanent resident, born in Benton County, or attended elementary, middle school, high school, or home-schooled in Benton County (OSU/LBCC does not qualify unless the student meets the other qualifications);
Lived with a parent or guardian who is a permanent resident of Benton County.
The person must have been killed-in-action in a hostile environment; and
The person must have served his/her country with honor and be honorably discharged from the military.
The Benton County Veterans Memorial still has several names who are listed as MIA’s. For those families and other family members, the Benton County Veterans Memorial has been helpful in a healing process and bringing a closure to a lost love one. With the six white granite benches, just about every day people stop to sit and reflect.
Thanks to the residents of Benton County - you are to be proud!
About Benton County Veteran's Memorial
The Benton County Veteran's Memorial, Inc. is designated as a 501 C (3) private non-profit organization by the State of Oregon and the IRS. As a result, donations made to this organization may be tax-deductible. If you would like to help us maintain the memorial, please send a contribution.