PONTOON BEACH • This Madison County village's first park will honor area residents who serve in our country's armed forces — past, present and future.
This morning, Pontoon Beach officials plan to dedicate the Randall D. Dalton Veterans Park, behind the Bank of Edwardsville branch at 5111 State Route 111. The public ceremony is to begin at 11 a.m.
The park is named for Dalton, of Collinsville, a soldier killed in action in 1971 during the Vietnam War. His remains were returned to family members for burial this year.
"It will honor all veterans, living and deceased," Pontoon Beach Mayor Mike Pagano said.
The former mayor, Jim Denham, and other officials planned the park and Pagano, elected last year, helped guide it to fruition.
The Bank of Edwardsville donated about an acre for the site, Pagano designed the memorial and a $42,500 state grant and private donations paid for it The centerpiece is a monument, flanked by sculptures of a soldier's boots, rifle and helmet.
With the help of additional donations, officials hope to add two pavilions, picnic tables, a walking trail, benches and a bandstand or amphitheater. Memorial bricks are being sold at $100 and $150 each to raise funds. Information is available at the village hall, 618-931-6100.
Village Clerk Harlon Keel said the park will be an important recreational asset, where residents will be able to see concerts, have picnics or hold reunions. He said the bank will allow park visitors to use its parking lot until the park gets its own.
Dalton, 20, was a door gunner on an Army helicopter shot down in Cambodia. He died while being treated for injuries, and heavy enemy fire forced rescuers to leave his body. DNA identified his among remains turned over by Vietnamese officials in 1989.