MONUMENT • It has consumed almost two years of Michael Carlson’s young life to plan, develop, coordinate, build and present his Eagle Scout project to the Town of Monument.
Carlson’s project, a veterans memorial inside Monument Cemetery, was gifted to the town Oct. 3 during a ceremony at the site, aided by other scouts and leaders of Boy Scout Troop 8 of St. Matthias Episcopal Church.
During the ceremony, Carlson, 16, whose grandfather was a WWII veteran and father, Joe, served in Vietnam, spoke about the history of the project and the individuals and organizations which made it come to reality. Carlson said the project started by his grandmother “planting the seed” in his mind to build a veterans memorial. He said the project came to life and seemed possible when Theresa Weiderspan, a friend of the family, discovered her employer might be willing to donate a $25,000 monument.
Later that year, Carlson came up with a rough sketch of the memorial and talked over the project with his scoutmaster, Lance Goraczkowsk and talked to business about an estimated $35,000 cost.
The completed project has a net worth of $46,000, Carlson said.
Carlson said the majority of the funds for the project were donated by the VFW Foundation through grants applied for by the VFW Auxiliaries in El Paso County. Labor on the project was completed Sept. 22, said Carlson a Palmer Ridge High School junior.
“Michael saw veterans were underrepresented here. He didn’t go to the government and say ‘Fix this.’ He decided to fix it himself and asked the government to help. … His leadership and patriotism has bettered our community,” Mayor Don Wilson said. The Town of Monument aided the project by removing the grass around the flagpole and digging up the land for the memorial.
Honorary speaker for the ceremony was chaplain Lt. Col. Timothy S. Meador, Army USAG, retired. Meador also happens to live next door to the Carlson family and had been hearing about the Eagle Scout’s project during its journey, he said.
“This is more than a memorial,” Meador said. “Look around and see what beauty this memorial adds to these grounds. … Beauty amidst sadness is a good thing.”
Framed certificates were presented to the project donors.
Carlson also credited his mother, Kathy Carlson, also a member of the local VFW Auxiliary to Post 7829, as being the driving force for him to complete the project over the past year and a half. Michael Carlson is a volunteer with the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7829 and a member of the VFW Auxiliary.
Leftover funds raised for the project will be donated to the Town of Monument to help ensure the memorial remains clean, the Eagle Scout said. In addition, security cameras will be installed to maintain safety at the site.
“We hope that it stays here a long time,” Carlson said of his idea turned reality, now that it is, for the most part, behind him. “It takes a whole level of stress off of me. It’s been very hard, but it’s been a dream come true and now it’s done.”
The memorial is a crescent stonewall which outlines a half circle of stone pavers. At one end of the wall is a headstone which is engraved with the sentences, “Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you, Jesus Christ and the American soldier. One died for your soul, the other died for your freedom. We honor those who made freedom a reality.”
On the opposite end of the wall is another marker with a plaque thanking all the donors to the project, topped with a sculpture of a pair of combat boots, a rifle standing upright on its stock and a combat helmet hanging on the end of its barrel, known as a battlefield cross.
In the center of the stone pavers is a flagpole, upon which the United States flag and the flag of the POW-MIA movement were hoisted during the event by members of the VFW Post 7829 and the American Legion Tri-Lakes Post 9-11.