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PHOTOS: Veteran leading effort to honor Wyoming’s fallen with new memorial near Fort Caspar

Dean Welch next to the design for the new memorial honoring Wyoming's fallen military members. (Brendan LaChance, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. — An Iraq war veteran is leading efforts to get a new memorial honoring Wyoming’s fallen military service members installed across from Fort Caspar at Patterson-Zonta Park, 3800 W. 13th St. in Casper.

“It will have the names of every Wyoming citizen that has died in combat up to present,” Dean Welch, post adjutant for the American Legion’s Casper Post No. 2, said Thursday. “Rylee McCullom from Jackson was killed in Afghanistan — he’ll be the last name on there for now.”

Welch himself, with the help of a committee, came up with the design for the new memorial. If everything works out, the memorial will be complete by the end of the year. Multiple veterans organizations are helping with the effort.

“We’re hoping to have this all done before snow flies this fall,” Welch said, adding that Flag Day is being tentatively considered for an initial ground-breaking ceremony.

Dean Welch next to the design for the new memorial honoring Wyoming’s fallen military members. (Brendan LaChance, Oil City)

While the project has already secured support from a variety of individuals and organizations, The American Legion’s Casper Post No. 2 is still seeking some donations in order for the project to happen.

“We’ve had several good donations,” Welch said. “Hunting with Heroes donated. Sen. [James] Anderson gave us $2,000. Dr. [Matthew] Mitchell gave us $2,000. The Zimmerman Family Foundation gave us $5,000. So we’re about $10,000 into our $30,000 goal.”

The donations are needed to buy pipes and have them bent, to purchase an I-beam for an arch that is part of the memorial design and will feature the words “Wyoming Fallen Veterans,” and to purchase the materials so individual names can be attached to the memorial.

Before the idea for the new memorial arose, the American Legion Casper Post No. 2 was trying to get a different veterans memorial relocated to a place more accessible to people with disabilities or others who might have trouble accessing it. That memorial is along the North Platte River trail between Pepper Tank and the Tate Pumphouse.

However, moving that memorial would entail some challenges as its panels are made of thin aluminum attached to a concrete wall along the path. Therefore, the idea came about to build a new memorial and American Legion Casper Post No. 2 then approached the City of Casper about the idea.

Geese at Patterson-Zonta park. (Brendan LaChance, Oil City)

“They offered us this land — well, actually offered numerous places, but this one has the most visibility just in terms of the traffic and it’s right near the fairgrounds,” Welch said. “You can see it from the grandstands and it’s near the old fort — scenic, next to the river and it’s just kind of a peaceful little place.”

ProFilms of Casper is contributing by donating time and work to put wraps with the names on the memorial. Mobile Concrete and Knife River are donating concrete work. Caspar Building Systems Inc., owned by Afghanistan War veteran Colton Sasser, is going to build the arch, according to Welch. WYDOT is donating panels for the memorial, Modern Electric is donating lighting work, and Kustom Koncepts is also involved.

“It’ll be visible at night,” Welch said.

WLC Engineering and Surveying is donating work for the site plan. Lower & Co PC Structural Engineering is donating structural engineering for the project.

Some of the grass at the park will be replaced with pavement to allow more parking, and the parking lot will be repaved to add more space, including handicap parking space.

Welch said the memorial will likely be dedicated to Korean War veteran Leo Sanchez, who led the effort to get the memorial along the Platte River trail installed in Casper.

While the memorial won’t be complete in time for Memorial Day this year, Welch said it is a site where veterans organizations will be able to host events and ceremonies in the future. The American Legion Casper Post No. 2 will place flags at the Oregon Trail State Veterans Cemetery and at Veterans Park again this year as they do every year, he added.

Veterans Park was considered as a site for the new memorial, but Welch said the memorial is a little too big and would clutter that park. Installing it across from Fort Caspar will help get people visiting more areas of Casper, he added.

There is also some thought about potential renaming of the park, though the name would still honor Irene Patterson, a nurse who was active in the community, according to Welch. Zonta is the name of a now-defunct organization, according to Welch’s research.

Welch said Patterson’s grandson has been contacted to talk about possibly renaming the park something like “Irene Patterson Memorial Park.”

The American Legion Casper Post No. 2 will provide maintenance of the memorial for the first two years after it is installed, with the city then taking care of it into the future, based on an agreement between the city and the organization, according to Welch.

Once the memorial project is complete, Welch said he’d like to see a new project undertaken to create a new center where veterans could meet and hang out with their families.

“That’ll probably our next project after this,” he said.

People wanting to contribute to the memorial project can email casperlegion@juno.com or contact the American Legion’s Casper Post No. 2 at 307-258-9120.

Dean Welch next to the design for the new memorial honoring Wyoming’s fallen military members. (Brendan LaChance, Oil City)


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