Most at meeting prefer alternate memorial sites

Friday, July 13, 2007
Rodger Brown, president of VietNow Trail of Tears chapter, spoke Thursday at the Osage Community Centre about the group's proposed Octagon of Honor.

Click here to watch Octagon of Honor discussed

Nobody at a noon meeting to discuss proposed memorials to veterans and mothers of fallen soldiers flatly opposed the idea. But as people suggested possible locations, it was also clear that few in the room aside from members of the VietNow chapter that is pushing the project wanted it built on the Common Pleas Courthouse lawn beside Lorimier Street.

About 60 people attended the meeting, organized by Dan Muser, director of parks for the city of Cape Girardeau.

The VietNow Trail of Tears Chapter wants to erect three stone monolith memorials, a brick walkway called the "Octagon of Honor" and a life-sized statue representing Gold Star Mothers. Plans for placing a monument for World War I soldiers on Independence Day were cut short when the idea ran into opposition from downtown business leaders, residents living near the courthouse and historic preservationists.

The Cape Girardeau County Commission, which has jurisdiction over the courthouse property, put off approving the monuments. The county leases the courthouse and property from the city, and commissioners want a clear statement from city leaders that they approve the memorials.

During the meeting at the Osage Community Centre, more than half a dozen alternative sites were suggested, ranging from Cape Girardeau Regional Airport and Cape Girardeau County Park North to Freedom Corner in Capaha Park or Murtaugh Park in front of the Red House Interpretive Center.

Tom Meyer, a real estate broker, said the Common Pleas Courthouse Park would be a good location but not in the originally proposed site. He suggested the memorials be placed farther north and east, among the trees overlooking the terraces leading down to Broadway.

That, Meyer said, gives it a quiet dignity. "It should be respectful, it should be something to pray on, not something right up in your face."

Rodger Brown, president of the VietNow chapter, defended the Common Pleas location near Lorimier Street as the most appropriate, arguing that several other proposed sites would either create a crowded look or be inadequate.

"Each one of those locations is inappropriate," Brown said. He noted that an online poll conducted by the Southeast Missourian showed a small majority support the proposed site. "Fifty-one percent want it exactly where we proposed," he said. "If we are waiting for the public to speak, they have."

But opponents of the location said the courthouse lawn would look cluttered and lose its appeal as a mostly open area in the heart of town.

Many of those who spoke cited their credentials as veterans to dispute Brown's claims in the past that he speaks for the vast majority of local veterans. Larry Breeze noted that during World War II, he was a combat infantryman and was part of the group that helped secure the bridge at Remagen, Germany, as Allied forces crossed the Rhine River.

"I am not comfortable breaking ranks with veterans, but I don't like the site that VietNow suggests," Breeze said. He suggested placing the new memorials alongside those at Freedom Corner.

Brown said the Common Pleas Courthouse lawn already has numerous memorials,. The location along Lorimier Street gives it a place of prominence, he said.

Muser said discussions would continue to determine where to place the memorials. Brown said he's willing to talk, but added that he's unlikely to be convinced. "I'm open to suggestion," he said. "But no one has come up with anything better than we already have."

335-6611, extension 126

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