Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Veterans Monument in Albia

Chariton Native and Vietnam War Vet, Jim Keller, 
Speaks about Building Veterans Monument in Albia

Chariton Leader, March 4, 2014
Bill Howes, Associate Editor

Vietnam War veteran, Jim Keller, was the guest speaker at the Rotary Club of Chariton's meeting, February 21st.  Keller is a native of Chariotn, a CHS graduate and a former store director of Hy-Vee in Chariotn.  He currently resides in Albia and at the Rotary he spoke about the Veteran's Monument up in Albia called the "Welcome Home Soldier Monument.  The monument is a quarter mile west of Albia along Highway 34.
The idea for the Welcome Home Soldier Monument came about with something that happened to Keller 34 years after he got back from Vietnam.  He read a book called "Beyond Survival" written by author and speaker Gerald Coffee, also a Vietnam veteran who was a prisoner of war (P.O.W.) for six and a half years in Vietnam.
"I was so impressed with the book that I wrote him a letter and said, 'If you're ever around this area, I'd love to come to listen to you speak.'  Coffee notified Keller when he was going to speak one time in Springfield, Ill., and invited Keller and his wife as guests.
"I met him before he spoke and introduced myself.  He shook my hand and said, 'Welcome home soldier, thank you for serving your country.'  For 34 years no one had ever done that to me and he was the first one who did.  Imagine, he was a prisoner of war for six and a half years in Vietnam and he was thanking me for my service.  That's when the whole idea for the monument got started." Keller said.
The venture for building the monument got started nine and a half years ago.  It's a monument that sits on eight acres of land and is meant to honor all veterans, living and dead, for their service no matter where they live.
Keller said he wants the monument to be a history lesson where people can learn about every war the United States has been involved in.  He mentioned his respect for military service and his love for his country.
Three hundred tons of dirt were donated to create a driveway for the monument.  In 2012 a total of 31 pieces of granite weighing 5,000 pounds each were purchased.  In June 2012 they were erected at the site with almost 1,000 men and women's names etched on them.  The men and women either served their country with an honorable discharge or were currently serving in the military at the time.
There are also three flags including the American flag, the POW/MIA flag and the Iowa flag.  Keller said the goal this year is to have 100 American flags flying at a place at the monument called Humble Hero Hill.  Each flagpole will have a different veteran's name on it.
For those who would like to donate to it, Welcome Home Soldier is a 501©(3) non-profit, tax-exempt organization.  Donations to it are all tax deductible.  To donate to it, people can call Keller directly at 641-777-1663.
"I am a better human being for doing this project.  I take it very seriously," Keller said.

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