Different Kind Of Memorial In Albia

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ALBIA, Iowa -- Find a veterans memorial, and you’ll find profound words.

"If you cut me I will bleed red, white, and blue," proclaims Jim Keller of Albia.

Keller likes to speak in hyperbole, but he can back it up.

"I always said this: the veterans and their families would build this monument and that's basically the way it's been so far."

This is the Welcome Home Soldier Memorial along Highway 34; Keller’s dream of honoring veterans in completely different way.

"I did not want to put a rock on the square with an American flag and some names on it and say 'thank you,'" he says, walking down the newly-poured sidewalk. "I wanted this to be an experience.”

For those who visit for the first time, it takes some introduction. Many of those honored here didn’t die in combat—in fact, some are still alive.

"And the neat part is, we can put family members together," Keller adds.

If you served at all—in any branch—you can have a spot, here. That’s Keller’s dream of honoring one and all, no exceptions.

"I always tell everyone that guys who got me my mail were pretty important to me when I was out in the field," he says.

It’s taken ten years and a gigantic fundraising effort to bring it this far.

"It's not cheap," says Keller, slapping his hand on the black granite display where names of each honored soldier have been etched. "You're looking at a quarter of a million dollars, right here."

The drawings make it clear that there is still a long way to go. The end product will tell the story of each of America’s wars, and make those who visit keenly aware of the courage that went into them.

"When you come through here I want to tear your heart out and hand it back to you," says Keller, puffing out his chest.

That’s hyperbole again, but at a place like this, it’s not out of place.





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