When my friend told me she was going to take me to the veteran's park outside of Albia, I nodded my agreement and assumed it would be like a lot of other monuments that have been erected across Iowa. I assumed it would be nice, patriotic, and professionally done but maybe somewhat modest in scope (in many places, there just aren't the budgets for huge memorials) as is the case with contemporary tributes to the men and women who have served our country in the many wars and conflicts over the past decades.
I assumed wrong.
What I found on the east side of Albia on Highway 34 in Monroe County was quite different.
It is downright astonishing.
Outside of the national monuments on the Mall in Washington D.C. or at battlefields, I'm not sure I've seen anything quite like it anywhere else.
The Welcome Home Soldier Monument is an eight acre park (land donated by the county) with all kinds of different elements. With an overall budget of approximately $2 million dollars, it is professionally done and the attention to detail is phenomenal. I would encourage you to read about it on their website, as they do a much better job telling the story and history than I could.
There is ample concrete parking off the highway.
There is a sign that has more information about the landmark as well as information to get involved or make a contribution.
Near the parking lot is a replica of the Iwo Jima monument, which is in Washington D.C.
Behind that statue is an engraved granite barrier that simply reads "Welcome Home Soldier".
There are rows of flag poles beyond that (and then another section of flags further north and west). The flags are down for the winter but I am sure that is quite the site to see when they are up.
There is a row of 21 crosses representing the 21 gun salute.
There is also a display of three "battlefield crosses".
Move down the beautifully paved sidewalks and you find a long, curved row of granite that includes the names of area men and women who have served.
There is space for additional veterans if a family or the veteran themselves would like to pay to have their name added. The cost, according to the website, is $150 per name. For those that are on there now, they even have a directory available to help you find who you might be looking for.
Many trees have been planted and other landscaping has been added. There are benches along the paths.
I applaud whomever locally had the vision to not only have this plan but to also execute it. It is well done and is truly a destination. I will need to stop back sometime when it isn't so cold and when the flags are flying. I am sure it is quite beautiful. There are pictures on the Facebook page that confirm as much.
From what I researched on their website and Facebook page (which I would encourage you to check out), they are continually looking for volunteers as well as financial contributions.