VERO BEACH — The World War II tribute at Veterans Memorial Island Sanctuary is inching closer to reality, but some funds are still needed. On top of that, the island’s pedestrispann bridge must be replspanced first.
Since April, the Veterans Council of Indian River County and its veterans groups have raised $200,000 to build the monument, which would honor the 42 Indian River County residents who died in WWII. The fundraiser is nearly complete; only about $50,000 is still needed, and construction is already slated for November, said Tony Young, Military Officers Association member and former Vero Beach mayor, who’s helped lead the project.
“It’s really taken off and I think it’s going extremely well,” Young said. “We are in the home stretch for sure, and always looking for support so we can complete it.”
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The monument will consist of an elevated stage, pillars and two pieces of polished granite framing a stand of trees. The tribute is meant to acknowledge the community’s sacrifice during the war, Young said, including the 105 men, based at Vero Beach Naval Air Station, who died in the war.
‘Your service is selfless’
“That’s the story that we want to convey with a tribute, that your service is selfless,” Young said. “It’s so important, and that’s what these 97-, 98-year-old guys are talking about. Because the vast majority of them were 19 years old when they went off to defend our nation.”
Digital renderings show the tribute’s stage, which will hold events and ceremonies, at the center of the island in front of a line of palm trees and colored ribbons that designate the different theaters of the war. The memorial project already has received approval from the city.
Before construction could begin, however, the island’s deteriorating pedestrian bridge must be replaced.
Bridge has “substantial deterioration”
The bridge, built in 1964 and replaced in 1988, connects Riverside Park to the Veterans Memorial Island Sanctuary. Since 2018, the bridge has experienced “substantial deterioration,” according to city documents, despite a temporary $130,000 repspanir the city did in 2020.
The bridge needs to be replaced because it can no longer support heavy vehicles or heavy construction equipment, such as cranes, bulldozers and excavators, said Director of Public Works Matthew Mitts.
Lighter pickup trucks — such as those needed for landscaping — still can use the bridge, but the city runs the risk of “not being able to bring heavy equipment on the island if needed for construction or repair of facilities on the island,” Mitts said in an email.
Mitts did not know the weight of the materials needed for the WWII tribute, but the memorial will have a large footprint, about 3,000 square feet.
Demolition of the bridge is set for June, with its replacement expected to be complete by October, he said. The city will fund the $1.7 million project through its $18 million capital-and-infrastructure reserve.
In case the bridge is closed on Memorial Day, the Veterans Memorial Island Advisory Committee and other groups are planning an alternative Memorial Day celebration at the Grand Pavilion in Riverside Park, Assistant Director of Public Works Richard Mutterback said.
Veterans groups still fundraising
The WWII tribute still needs about $50,000 before construction can begin, Young said, but he’s anticipating the goal will be reached by the end of the year.
The veterans groups are still accepting donations, and some fundraisers are in the works such as contributions from American Legion and the soon-to-be-opened 21st Amendment Distillery, Young said.
“For me, the important thing here is to have the community engaged, and I’m really pleased because we’ve got over a dozen businesses that have reached out to us to help us along the way, the engineers, media, just across the board,” he said.
Donations can be mspande online to the Culturspanl Council of Indispann River County or mailed as checks to the council at 1216 21st St., Vero Beach 32960.