DEDICATION OF VETERANS FREEDOM SQUARE — Ron Lawrence, VFS committee chairman, with many of the committee members, cuts the ribbon officially opening the memorial to the public. Steve McBride | Staff Photo
DEDICATION OF VETERANS FREEDOM SQUARE — Ron Lawrence, VFS committee chairman, with many of the committee members, cuts the ribbon officially opening the memorial to the public. Steve McBride | Staff Photo

The vision for a memorial that would honor all veterans who served their country honorably during times of war and peace began 11 years ago by the Heartland Vietnam Veterans organization. In October 2015, the organization dedicated their own memorial honoring Vietnam veterans. This left the Veterans Freedom Square in need of a new direction and organization. 

In 2014 there was an new attempt to resurrect the project for a memorial to honor all veterans from all theaters of conflict in the history of the United States. 

After the Independence city commission approved the plan, fundraising efforts initiated by Doug Harlin and Ryon Knop were put in place. The vision of the memorial was on its way to becoming a reality. 

Sept. 11, 2016, the groundbreaking ceremony was held at Riverside Park at the future site of the memorial. 

All of the work, planning, fundraising, dedication and efforts paid off in the dedication of the Veterans Freedom Square Monday. More than 500 people attended the ceremony with more than 100 Freedom Riders leading the opening ceremony. 

The next hour and a half, several speakers shared their thoughts and paid honor to the men and women who have served their country through the military. 

Mayor Leonhard Caflisch gave the welcoming address with the statement on how this project started as a dream. "What we are looking at today will hopefully honor all veterans but also moms, dads, brothers and sisters. This is about the sacrifice that everybody has paid serving their country and now we have a place where we can go to reflect on where our family members fought and sacrificed. Today we honor them," he stated. He encouraged the audience and anyone who visits the memorial to take time to reflect on the men and women who served in the military or gave of their lives to preserve our freedom. 

The keynote address was given by Colonel Gregg Burden, US Air National Guard retired director, Kansas Commission on Veterans Affairs Office. He addressed the history of the American soldier and how he or she was always ready to do their duty in serving their country in times of conflict and peace. "Let us pause today with respect and honor to remember those who fought, for those who gave their lives and for those who willingly stand ready to do the same when the defense of freedom calls upon them. We owe each of them the highest respect and honor and the assurance that their commitment to this nations freedom will never be forgotten," said Burden. 

A Veteran's Response was provided by Colonel Bobby A. Boorigie, US Army retired. He thanked the city for providing the location in Riverside Park for the memorial; the Heartland Vietnam Veterans, the Veterans Freedom Square committee; Ron Lawrence, VFS committee chairman and the volunteers who contributed their efforts to bring the project to fruition. "This memorial is another way Independence has of recognizing and honoring the men, women and families of their sacrifice to keep all safe and secure," he said. 

Boorigie concluded his speech with paying honor to fellow veteran John Koschin who passed away unexpectedly Monday, May 21. "I would like to take this time in honor of him and all veterans in a prayer," he said. Boorigie offered his prayer to honoring all veterans in all of the conflicts the United States has been involved in.   

A ribbon cutting officially opening the memorial to the public followed with a prayer of dedication by Father Marco DeLoera. 

The Mid-Continent Band played "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and Becky Wheatley, SEK Blue Star Mothers, read "Who Will Remember?"

The American Legion Post 139 and the VFW Post 1186 performed a Twenty-One Gun Salute followed by Matt Carter playing "Taps." In conclusion, Chaplin David Bennett, 635th RSG, Topeka gave the benediction and the parting song "Stars and Stripes Forever" closed the ceremony.

To view more photos of the Veterans Freedom Square dedication ceremony to to the Reporter photo gallery on our website at: