At the Dayton City Council meeting on Monday evening, former City of Dayton Mayor Steve Stephens addressed the council about the Veteran’s Wall in the Dayton Veteran’s Memorial Park. The park located at the Dayton Community Center was built in 2013 and experienced heavy damage during Hurricane Harvey. With a donation of $7,700 from Entergy Texas and a grant, the wall was repaired and restored. After the wall was repaired and rededicated, Stephens met with the Dayton City Manager, Theo Melancon, to discuss the bare spots on the wall and the possibility of grants to help fill the empty spots. Melancon and Dayton Mayor Caroline Wadzeck asked Stephens to obtain fifteen to twenty names to go on the wall and have them by November 15, 2019. Once that date hit, Stephens turned in over 200 names. The wall only had 83 bare spots, so there would be no way to accommodate all 200 names. The difficult task then began to narrow the list down to fill the 83 empty spots. First, many of the names submitted did not have the complete information on them, so those names were moved into a separate category. Then they looked at the applicants’ ties to Dayton, such as if they were born and raised in Dayton or graduated from Dayton schools and the list was narrowed down to 83 names.
In January, Stephens received a phone call from a 79-year-old woman living in Austin who was born and raised in Dayton and graduated from Dayton ISD. She submitted her three brothers’ names, one who had been in Vietnam and been injured two times and had passed away due to his injuries and side effects from the war. The woman informed Stephens she had recently been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and had only two to four months to live. She wanted to know if her brothers’ names would be on the wall, and Stephens assured her they would. The amount of money was raised through an anonymous donation to get the three brothers’ names on the wall. Melancon wrote a letter to the woman insuring her that her brothers’ names would be on the wall, and she called Stephens.
She told Stephens, “Since I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, I have never shed a tear. I put it in God’s hands and whatever will be will be.” She said, “I received the letter from the City Manager today telling me that the three plaques for my three brothers were paid for and that these plaques were guaranteed to be put on the wall.”
Stephens continued, “She said that when she received the letter, she cried like a baby.”
Stephens said he told the council and attendees at the meeting this story to help them understand the importance of acknowledging the contributions of veterans to their families who are proud of the service of their loved ones.
Wadzeck and Stephens got together and contacted Pace Stancil, who got together with Gemini, the original makers of the plaques, and they gave them a bid of $12,447, or $155 per plaque, which is a significant reduction in bids by other companies. Three of the plaques have been paid for and the city received a grant of $5,000 from Entergy Texas, which left $7,450.
Stephens then asked the council to approve the funding of the remaining costs to complete the wall. The City Council unanimously passed the motion to finish out the wall and pay for the remaining plaques.