0

Paying Tribute

GRAND RONDE — The West Valley Veterans Memorial — an impressive monument to service and sacrifice standing near the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde governance building — was not built in a day.    In fact, years passed between when tribal member and veteran Marcellus Norwest first voiced his vision for the memorial and its dedication 11 years ago.    Steve Bobb Jr., the memorial’s designer and sculptor, said discussions, meetings and planning went on for several years.    It was the words of another veteran, this time World War II veteran and tribal elder Russ Leno, that inspired the final push to complete the memorial.    Bobb said Leno had been watching the process for a number of years, attending meetings of the committee charged with making the memorial a reality.    “He stood up in a meeting and said, ‘I want to see this before I’m gone,’” Bobb recalled. “When he made that remark, it set an urgency for everyone to get it done. From that point forward, things went fast.”    On May 31, 2003, a few years after Leno spoke, the memorial was dedicated, commemorating those tribal members and residents of Willamina and Sheridan for their service to the country.    Leno was in the audience for the ceremony.    “He is gone now, but he got to see it (finished). He was here to see it,” Bobb said.    Norwest was the emcee.    Both elders have since died, but the tradition they were integral in creating continues.    Monday, Grand Ronde will once again welcome veterans and the public to honor those who served this country. Twelve names will be added to the memorial, bringing the total to 2,278.    Bobb, a Vietnam veteran, shares Norwest and Leno’s pride regarding the memorial. Not just in the elegant sculpture he created or the four giant pillars representing the four branches of the United States military — Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force — but that he was a part of something that will forever honor his brothers — and sisters — in arms.    “To be able to say: We are honoring you and you are going to be forever remembered on this memorial … there is a strong satisfaction that no one can take that away from me,” he said.    Bobb said he leaped at the opportunity to design the memorial, even though his experience with sculpting was minimal at best.    “This was my second one, so I just leaped into it,” he said last week of the sculpture named “Hail to the Brave.”    The sculpture depicts a man and woman in traditional Native American dress reaching to the sky.    “We did a man and a woman in traditional regalia because we want to honor women also as equals on the battlefield,” he said. “Most memorials don’t do that, but in today’s world women are just as in the forefront as the men are.”    The circular monument was designed to resemble a medicine wheel with four quadrants, each containing a military branch pillar — all made of black granite sent from India — listing the names of those who served. Along the outside railings are plaques depicting each conflict from World War II to Iraq and Afghanistan. Photo by Jolene Guzman Steve Bobb Jr.’s “Hail to the Brave” sculpture is the center of the West Valley Veterans Memorial in Grand Ronde.    Bobb said, at first, the memorial was just going to include tribal members, but that quickly changed.    “It kind of grew, we are inclusive, so it grew to include veterans from Grand Ronde, Willamina and Sheridan,” he said. “Veterans, we are tight, and we wanted to include everyone from this community. Really, we are one community.”    After years of fundraising and work to complete the memorial, Bobb was able to add just one more detail to cap the achievement: He convinced singer Lee Greenwood (“God Bless the USA”) to sing at the dedication in 2003.    “I thought he would just say, ‘I’m busy.’ But he said. ‘I’d love to,’” Bobb recalled. “He sang the song twice, people liked it so much.”    Bobb said as the tribe prepared for Monday’s ceremony last week that he feels privileged to be able to participate.    “If people have highlights in their life, that has got to be ranked right up there,” he said.    

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment

CLOSE X

Information from the Itemizer-Observer and our advertisers (Want to add your business to this to this feed?)