Originally planned in 1943, the Klamath Falls Veterans Memorial Park and monument was completed in 2007.

Veterans Memorial Park

In 1945, an unnamed Klamath Falls mother wrote to Oregon's newly formed Department of Veterans Affairs.

Her son had died on bloody Omaha Beach when the U.S. and Allies were storming the cliffs of northern France on D-Day, June 6, 1944.

Her son, she wrote, was buried with thousands of others in the military cemetery at Saint Laurent, Sur-mer.

Knowing she would never be able to visit his grave, all she wanted was a simple snapshot of his headstone. She had already tried many other sources without success.

"Can the Department of Veterans Affairs help me?" she asked.

An assistant director of the department wrote a letter to the mayor of Saint Laurent, explaining the mother's request. Within a few weeks, she had her prized photo and a personal letter of thanks and condolence from the French mayor.

A year before the D-Day invasion, officials in Klamath Falls began planning a park dedicated to Klamath County veterans. It would be built after World War II had ended, but in December 1943 it was given a name — Veterans Memorial Park.

Extending east from the Link River Bridge, along the shore of Lake Euwana, the park would be a place where people "could rest" and where mothers could "feed the baby or freshen up."

At its center, said a local reporter, "the park and civic center will include a war memorial."

Voters approved the park in October 1944, but the war memorial wasn't built for another 63 years.

In 2001, members of the Oregon Air National Guard, based at Kingsley Field, started a campaign to build a permanent memorial in the park. They were quickly joined in their effort by veterans organizations, local groups and businesses, the city of Klamath Falls and Klamath County.

They broke ground in August 2007 and 12 weeks later, on Veterans Day, the memorial was dedicated.

More than 90 organizations and countless volunteers kept the project within budget. To defray the cost of construction, thousands of bricks were sold at $50 each. Each brick was engraved with a veteran's name, rank, service branch and, if applicable, the war or campaign they served in.

So far, nearly 4,000 bricks have been placed along viewing paths that radiate out from the center of an open-air pavilion — and there's still room for more.

Surrounding the central pavilion are 10 monuments along a circular walkway that offer a short synopsis of specific United States' campaigns, wars and conflicts.

Under the roof of the pavilion is an interactive touch screen. Here visitors can read a short history of the veterans memorial and search for a particular veteran by name.

Once the veteran is found, the touch screen is able to display a map showing exactly where in the memorial that veteran's brick lies.

Although the Klamath Falls mother of 1945 never saw the permanent memorial, her memories still live on with those who continue to come, kneel, pray and, perhaps, to cry for their lost hero.

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at

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