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Obelisk rises over Oregon World War II Memorial

Crews and a crane move the 20-ton, 33-foot-high tower into place April 2


by: COURTESY OF OREGON DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS - HIGH-FLYING MANEUVER - Under the watchful eyes of construction workers, a crane slowly moves the 20-ton obelisk into place at the Oregon World War II Memorial.Just two months after the groundbreaking at the Oregon World War II Memorial in Salem, the construction team prepared to raise a 33-foot-high granite obelisk on the grounds of the state Capitol on April 2, weather permitting.

"It will be a 'game-day decision,'" said Tim Bronleewe of Oregon Memorials before making the call to proceed. Brownleewe's company is building the granite components for the memorial, including the walls, pavers and the five-sided obelisk that was delivered that morning to Willson Park.

Under the leadership of Lou Jaffe, U.S. Army Vietnam War veteran and president of the Oregon WWII Memorial Foundation, the foundation had been making preparations for that day since 2011. The volunteer board is composed of a variety of experienced professionals, all committed to the project.

Board member Bob Plame, who is a retired real estate developer and retired U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in the Vietnam War, is the project manager and acting as general contractor for the construction team. He also is largely responsible for the design of the memorial.

"The design has evolved over the last couple of years, and it could never have come together without people like Tim (Bronleewe) and others who brought their insight and expertise to the project," Plame said

by: COURTESY OF OREGON DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS - DELICATE WORK  - With the help of a crane, a worker moves a section of the Oregon WWII Memorial's wall into place before the obelisk is lowered onto its base.The memorial's walls and monument base were set in place the week of March 24 in preparation for cranes to install the obelisk.

According to Plame, because the granite obelisk weighs roughly 20 tons, the setting of the large monument took extreme skill. "We will only get one shot at doing it correctly," he said.

The public dedication for the Oregon WWII Memorial is scheduled for June 6, 2014. The event is expected to draw crowds from all across the state, including WWII veterans, school groups and officials representing historical, military and community organizations.

The Oregon WWII Memorial will cover a 75-by-75-foot area inside Willson Park at the corner of Cottage and Court streets. At its center will be the 33-foot-high obelisk, in reference to Oregon's being the 33rd state in the union. Along the corner of a low wall on the memorial are the engraved names of the 3,771 fallen Oregon service members from WWII. Two black granite benches will invite visitors to sit and reflect on the shared sacrifice during wartime.

One of the most unique features of the design is a world map engraved on the memorial's footprint. Each stone paver represents a piece of the map, adding to the complexity of the construction.

"It's like a giant jigsaw puzzle, and not one of the pavers can be out of place," Plame said.

Adding to the experience, there are QR codes throughout the memorial linking to online material. Using mobile phones, visitors can scan the QR codes to access facts about individuals, battles and key events of WWII.

Jaffe has been the driving force behind the fundraising effort. Just two months away from the opening of the memorial, the foundation has nearly reached its $1.2 million goal. Jaffe's passion for the effort has helped raise public awareness as well as financial support for the memorial.

"Oregon was one of only six states that does not have a WWII memorial, and that needed to change," Jaffe said. "Oregonians deserve this memorial to honor the veterans and their families who worked and served in World War II."

To make a contribution to the WWII Memorial Foundation, people are invited to go to www.oregonwwiimemorial.com, or see the Facebook page for fundraising updates and Oregon WWII history at www.facebook.com/oregonww2memorial.