Dozens of volunteers and donors have poured their hearts and pocketbooks into creating a lasting tribute to veterans of the Armed Forces from Powell and central Ohio.

Dozens of volunteers and donors have poured their hearts and pocketbooks into creating a lasting tribute to veterans of the Armed Forces from Powell and central Ohio.

Now, more than four years and hundreds of volunteer hours later, the monument is being installed in Powell's Village Green, and will be officially dedicated on Memorial Day.

The memorial features six granite monoliths -- one for each branch of Armed Forces, and POW-MIA -- with a flag pole and benches surrounding the site.

Engraved paver bricks will be in the center, many with names of veterans and sponsors.

The memorial has brought together the public and private sector, led to the nonprofit Greater Powell Veterans Memorial Foundation, and ultimately will serve as a permanent reminder of the sacrifice and service of soldiers.

When Kathryn Gerke started a support group for military families in 2001 shortly after seeing her son leave for boot camp with the Marine Corps, she wasn't planning on spearheading a memorial campaign.

Instead, Gerke said, she was looking to cope with her son's two tours of duty in Iraq. He enlisted in June 2001, after graduating high school; he left for boot camp Sept. 23, 2001, days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

"When Sept. 11 happened, he left for boot camp 12 days later. It's been an emotional roller coaster for us," Gerke said. "I started a support group and that's where we all started with this memorial idea."

Gerke's son came home, and is now a police officer in the city of Delaware, but not all stories of service have a happy ending.

After the death of Pfc. Nick Zimmer on May 30, 2004, Gerke said her support group was looking for a way to remind the community of not just Zimmer's sacrifice, but of all soldiers.

Zimmer was working as a loader with an M1A1 Abrams tank in Kufa, Iraq, when he was killed in a rocket-propelled grenade blast.

His family lives in Delaware County.

Gerke said she approached friends and family including foundation president Michael Crites -- a retired Navy captain and graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy -- and the idea for a memorial took off.

Foundation faces challenges

After the foundation received approval in September 2005 to build the memorial at the Village Green, fundraising kicked into high gear.

Volunteers canvassed for donations of all amounts; from $10,000 sponsorships of six benches across from each monolith to $100 donations which helped purchase engraved bricks.

The foundation scaled back plans last May, to reduce the amount of money needed to start construction on the monoliths -- the most expensive part of the project.

Before scaling back the project, the foundation initially asked city council for a loan of up to $50,000. The foundation later withdrew the request after learning using public funds would require bidding the project and following prevailing wage laws, which likely would increase costs.

To cut costs, the foundation eliminated part of the engraved brick walkway.

The funding shortfall delayed construction by about a year.

Despite that, Gerke said the community has been incredibly supportive.

To date, more than 200 bricks have been sold.

"We have upwards of 300 donors," Gerke said. "The bricks themselves are a story to tell."

In-kind donations have also saved the foundation significant costs, she said.

Architects, engineers, electricians and masons have donated their time to help design and install the monument.

"I don't even know where to begin to thank people. People have been incredible -- the Powell community has been incredible," Gerke said.

Thanking veterans

Since starting the foundation in 2004, Gerke said she has met countless veterans and families of veterans who have expressed support.

"Literally every generation, every war, we have represented. Powell is going to say thank you to all our veterans and I think that's very powerful," she said.

World War II Navy veteran Chuck Sheley and his wife Nancy live in Worthington and attend church in Powell.

Sheley became a member of the GPVMF board and will donate the flags that will become part of the memorial.

"I'm a veteran of WWII and my wife had three brothers and two brothers-in-law serve, mostly in WWII ... so we have a lot of background in that area," Sheley said. "The flags represent our appreciation for what the vets have done and give us a feeling of closeness for our family members, most of who have departed now."

Community participation

There are still several ways community members can share in the memorial, Gerke said.

The foundation will continue to sell $100 bricks even after the memorial is dedicated. Those wishing to order bricks in time for the dedication can still do so, Gerke said.

The Army bench is also still available for a $10,000 sponsorship.

Powell resident Dana Ullom-Vucelich is organizing the dedication ceremony, to be held immediately following Powell's Memorial Day Parade, May 26.

Born on an Army base in Oklahoma, Ullom-Vucelich said she was honored to be asked by the foundation to chair the dedication ceremony.

"What an incredible country that we live in ... our children have great opportunities because of the sacrifices of those men and women," she said. "The work that they are doing today will benefit the future."

Ullom-Vucelich's daughter, Jenna, a sophomore at Liberty High School, has started a thank-you letter writing campaign, asking various schools throughout the district to participate.

Children in grades first through 12 are asked to write thank you notes to veterans and mail them by May 15 to Jenna Vucelich, P.O. Box 1765, Powell Ohio 43065.

Jenna Vucelich asks that thank you notes are 10-150 words, signed with the student's first name only, and placed in an envelope with contact information in case the student is selected to read their thank you during the memorial dedication.

Thank you notes will also be given to veterans attending the dedication and any left over will be mailed to troops overseas.

Those interested in assisting with the dedication ceremony can contact Ullom-Vucelich via e-mail at dana@corp.oprs.org.

For more information on the memorial, contact Gerke at Kathryn. Gerke@oacp.org or (614) 791-1469 or log onto www.greaterpowellveteransmemorial.org.