Ever since the first veterans memorial fundraiser in 2005, Sheridan Police Chief Chuck Bergeron and the memorial committee had a dream to see a military display piece become a permanent fixture in the memorial.
Thanks to the village council giving Bergeron the go-ahead to pursue a free howitzer cannon, that dream is now a reality.
“We always talked about placing a tank or some type of aircraft in the memorial,” Bergeron said. “So, about eight years ago, I sent an application to the U.S. Army Donation Center asking for a military display. I was really surprised when the Army contacted me this week about a howitzer cannon available for pickup in Springfield. And the best part? It's free.”
The howitzer was the standard U.S. cannon used in World War II, as well seeing action in Europe and the Pacific. Production began in 1941. The cannon in Springfield was used in World War II, the Korean, Indonesia and Vietnam Wars. An updated version of the howitzer is used in today's military conflicts.
It won't be easy
While the 5,000-pound cannon is a free donation, there are challenges to bringing it to the memorial. The Army has three requirements before the howitzer can be permanently placed.
The cannon must be professionally transported from Springfield on a flat bed truck. Part of this challenge is lifting it and taking it off the bed. The trucking company must also provide proof of insurance and be certified by the Illinois Department of Transportation.
The third requirement is for an 8-by-19-foot cement pad to be installed inside the memorial before the truck can pick up the howitzer. Photos of the pad and complete documentation from the trucking company must be provided to the Army.
Fundraisers built the memorial
The memorial committee held yearly gun raffle fundraisers from the memorial's inception in 2005 to 2014. The money raised was used to purchase two benches, five military plaques, Revolutionary and Civil War plaques, flags and poles representing the five military branches, landscaping and a wrought iron fence that surrounds the memorial.
“We've waited for eight years for a display to become available and this is our last chance to add a piece of military equipment to the memorial,” Bergeron said. “The reason this particular howitzer is available is because the land it's sitting on has been sold. So they'd love for us to have it. But our situation is that since we haven't held a fundraiser for a long time, we're looking to the board for financial help.”
The veterans memorial has been funded through fundraisers and other events. Peggy Arneson, former parks committee chairwoman (now the police committee chairwoman) has noted several times throughout the years taxpayer money was never used to build the memorial.
Finance Committee Chairman Randy McMurray said he did not have an issue with helping the committee on this project. The board approved a motion to allow Bergeron to make arrangements for obtaining the howitzer.
“We give donations to our veteran organizations as well as the Community Club,” McMurray said. “We have the money so I don't see any reason for us not to help out the Veterans Memorial Park.”
Village resident Wendy Greenrod said she knew the village waited a long time for a military piece, suggesting Bergeron investigate Building Trades 150.
“Maybe you might get good volunteers for this project,” she said. “You could also ask them about trucks as well. Maybe they could help out with that and possibly get the concrete donated too.”
Bergeron thanked Greenrod for her suggestion.
“I'll look into that. We definitely need all the help we can get. And I want to say thanks to the board for helping us out like this. The committee thinks the addition of this historic howitzer will be a great addition to the veterans memorial."