MONTICELLO — Whether they enter Monticello from the north, south, east or west, motorists now have a visual reminder of how important those serving in the military are to this Piatt County town.
Plaques with the names of 44 with local connections currently serving in the military are spread out among the quartet of displays located along the four main entrances to town.
A group that has dubbed itself Monticello Area Military Service Recognition came up with the idea earlier this year and made quick work of the project, raising $4,000 and getting the help of local veterans and civic groups and from the city of Monticello, which manufactured and installed the enclosures for the plaques.
"Our goal of the project was to honor and recognize all currently serving military from our community, and to remind our community of just how many of our sons and daughters have volunteered to serve," said group member John Foley, who spearheaded the effort with Scott Burnsmier and Bill Blickhan.
The 14-foot high displays are topped with the emblems of the military branches — Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, National Guard and Coast Guard — and have space for more plaques in case someone has been missed. In gathering names, the group received help from Monticello High School Principal Tip Reedy and retired teacher Ron Nolte.
Foley said there was also plenty of help from the Monticello American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts, Monticello High School and a $500 donation from the Rotary Club.
The signs are up, but the work goes on. Besides raising the remaining $1,000 needed for the $4,800 price tag, organizers are actually repainting the plaques to make them more readable. While getting rave reviews for the effort, all comments have been positive except one — that the plaques can be hard to read, especially from the road.
Using the back of the individual signs, Foley said they will be repainted with black letters on a white background with the names in larger letters. The yellow ribbon will remain.
"We need to change them. We've gone this far — we want it to look right," added Foley.
The local committee provided the city the materials for the display structures, which were fabricated and put up at no cost. The group will also provide the city new signs and advise which ones need to be taken down twice a year.