City supports Veteran's Memorial

A Veteran’s Memorial, which this preliminary design depicts, will honor the five branches of the military at a site near the intersection of Highway 285 and Airport Road in Alamosa./Courtesy photo

ALAMOSA — Alamosa city council this week approved $3,000 towards a proposed Veteran’s Memorial that will be located on county-donated property at the corner of Airport Road (Road 9 South) and Highway 285.

Members of the memorial planning committee approached the council during its Wednesday meeting to request $3,000 for start-up funds to help with a replica of the memorial that will be used to raise the approximately $505,000 estimated for the project. San Luis artist Huberto Maestas will be creating the sculptures that will honor the five branches of the military on the site.

Alamosa County Commissioner Michael Yohn, a U.S. Army veteran, said veterans provide $7 million a year economic impact to Alamosa County. The proposed memorial will be a visible tribute to those veterans at Alamosa’s southern gateway, he said.

Steve Valdez, a member of the memorial planning committee, added, “We feel passionate about this … It’s really a story we want to tell.”

He said this is something the group hopes Alamosa can be proud of.

He said those committed to the project have been meeting since 2016. During that time the group looked at what other memorial sites had included in neighboring counties and had secured a site from the county of 1.3 acres. Alamosa County is acting as the fiscal agent on the project, Valdez added.

The group has also partnered with Maestas to create the sculptures that will be part of the memorial. The group initially looked at static displays like a tank or airplane but opted for sculptures instead, perhaps of a group in a circle reaching to grasp hands in the middle to show the brotherhood of servicemen and servicewomen or an older veteran consoling a younger veteran sitting on a bench.

“We want it to be an emotional story,” Valdez said.

Valdez said the project is staged over three years to be completed in 2021.

Valdez said the group has raised $2,500 so far from the group members’ personal donations and others, and the group’s goal is to raise $5,000 to create a replica — $2,500 for the artist fee to submit drawings and gain final approval of the sculptures and $2,500 for a small replica, which could be shown to potential funders. It will be easier to obtain donations if the group has something to show donors and grantors, Valdez explained.

Valdez said the replica should be ready by the end of March. The group will be finalizing drawings with Maestas on January 28.

Valdez broke down the costs of the memorial itself: $153,000 for flat work on the structure and ground work; $85,000 per larger-than-life bronze statue, measuring 8 feet each; and $60,000 for a 6-foot life-size bronze statue. These costs would be staged over three years, he added.

Valdez said the costs of the statues are pretty fixed, but Maestas was going to work with the group as much as possible.

The first stage, raising $5,000, will be reached on February 15 of this year, the next stage of $150,000 by Veterans Day of this year, the third stage of $175,000 by Veterans Day of 2020 and the final and fourth stage of $175,000 by Veterans Day of 2021.

“It’s a pretty aggressive goal, pretty aggressive fundraising that we have to look at,” Valdez said, adding, “We feel confident on it, with the groups we have been in contact with and have positively responded to it.”

He said, “We are all committed to make it happen. We think this is a fairly achievable, attainable effort.”

He said the group has gone into the community and done some footwork, with several businesses expressing interest in helping, such as City Market, Safeway, Papa Murphy’s and Chili’s. The group is also looking for national donations from veterans’ groups like the VFW and American Legion as well as assistance from funding sources like El Pomar and others.

Committee member Janet Yohn said the group working on this project is “solid,” diverse and committed. It includes folks like Matthew Martinez who has provided some good ideas on fundraising, she said, and Alamosa County Commissioner Helen Sigmond. Also on the committee are Frank Muniz, Lewis Entz, Ken Marquez, Shannon Griffin and Kristen Salazar.

When asked if this was a memorial only for Alamosa, Valdez said, “It’s a community project, not just Alamosa.” It will be for the entire San Luis Valley, he said.

Councilor Kristina Daniel thanked the group for not considering a tank or something that might be traumatic for veterans visiting the mental health center near the proposed memorial. “I feel this will be very well received,” she said. “I appreciate that thoughtfulness.”

Councilman Charles Griego, a veteran, said this memorial will be an Alamosa City/County veterans memorial but will be something veterans from all six counties can appreciate.

Griego favored giving the group some funding to create a replica so funders would have something visual to look at.

Alamosa Mayor Ty Coleman said, “I think a memorial is greatly needed in our community.”

Rather than take the funding from its $10,000 sponsorship budget, the council decided to take the $3,000 from the city’s fund balance, which City Manager Heather Brooks assured them could handle that amount.