War Memorial [video by Rod J. Eckrich]


Veterans memorial a striking sight, a sobering testament

The realism is striking.

You could spend a good portion of the day gazing at the sculptures and listening to the narration. I think it's difficult, whether you’re a veteran or a member of the public, to not be moved by what the monuments speak to.

The realities of war are in full definition at the Edward P. Robinson Community Veterans Memorial, which details the history of North America's involvement in World Wars I and II, the wars in Korea and Vietnam, and the first conflict in the Persian Gulf.

More than a decade ago, two veterans spearheaded the sprawling tribute, an unforgettable sight on Calumet Avenue in Munster. Edward P. Robinson, who served in the Air Force during the Korean War, was an administrator at The Community Hospital in Munster in the mid-1990s when he approached Donald S. Powers about the lack of a comprehensive war memorial. Powers, a former Navy pilot and veteran of WWII, Korea and Vietnam, is CEO and president of The Community Hospital’s parent company, Community Foundation of Northwest Indiana.

The Community Foundation agreed that 6.5 acres of land would be set aside for the memorial.

The idea grew into a vision steered by a committee of 21 men and women from The Region, most of them veterans.

The veterans on the committee shared their military experiences to help conceptualize the park. The committee’s primary concern was to communicate the effects of combat and honor those who served and sacrificed.

Plans for the memorial gathered momentum in late 1999 when Omri Amrany and his wife, Julie Rotblatt-Amrany, were commissioned to create sculptures for the project. The couple are responsible for crafting the Michael Jordan statue – "The Spirit" – that stands outside the United Center in Chicago. Omri also created the Harry Caray statue placed outside Wrigley Field.

The bronze and granite pieces they fashioned for the Community Veterans Memorial evoke the grit and terror of battle, whether it's a soldier taking position or a helmet lying on the ground. The couple took a chance by driving for realism and nontraditional images.

The memorial opened in 2003.

“The memorial provides a place to remember and preserve the experience. It means a great deal to a lot of people," said Len Bezat, project director for the memorial.

"School groups also visit the memorial for guided tours around the park," he added. "The memorial serves as part of the mission to educate future generations of people for whom these wars will be rooted more in history."

I have visited the memorial once before to see the bricks for family members who served in the military. I was impressed by how the memorial covers each conflict, beginning with WWI and ending with the first Gulf War. Suffice it say, it is worth stopping there for a valuable lesson in history.

The memorial is at 9710 Calumet Ave. in Munster, south of 45th Avenue and north of Main Street. It's open from dusk until dawn, depending on the weather. For more information, visit http://www.communityveteransmemorial.org/.