SARGENT - - Though he never served in the military himself, Dennis Seidel had the utmost respect and admiration for members of the U.S. Armed Forces, and was determined to honor those veterans in a special way in his hometown of Sargent. But he was not able to see that happen.
After his sudden, tragic death in February 2013, friends and loved ones of Dennis Seidel - in particular his girlfriend, Kathy Wilson - have made it their mission to complete the project Dennis was so passionately devoted to for the last years of his life; the Sargent Veterans Memorial.
With the coming of Veteran’s Day, the loss is still fresh for Kathy Wilson. The emotion causes her voice to crack as she tries to talk about the project that was so near and dear to the man she loved, and she must pause from time to time to collect herself. Yet, there is a spark in her eyes and an enthusiasm in her speech once she gets past the tears to the Veterans Memorial.
“Dennis was very active - he always like to be involved in things,” says Wilson.
She says it was during the winter of 2009 when Dennis came up with the idea for a project to honor veterans.
“No one is going to get the ball rolling - so we’re going to do that,” Wilson says with a smile, quoting the words Dennis told her during that initial conversation.
She says the couple spent the next year and a half driving around Nebraska and Kansas looking at veterans memorials to get ideas. She says Dennis wanted something different - a place where people who visited could get in out of the rain and wind.
By the middle of 2010, Wilson says Dennis had a pretty good idea in mind of what he wanted and began searching for an architect to put his vision on paper. He found someone in Broken Bow who does that sort of thing as a side job and drew up the plans, telling the couple he believed that for $50,000 they could get the memorial they had in mind.
Almost immediately the community began getting behind the project. Wilson works at Trotters in Sargent, and during a conversation at work about their plans truck driver Tim Thomas liked what he heard and wanted to help. He offered to donate the piece of land along Main Street to be used for the memorial. Wilson says they are now just waiting for the official transfer of that land so they can get started breaking ground, and she has asked Dennis’s brother, Dale, to build it.
The Sargent Veterans Memorial will not only honor local veterans, but any veteran who someone wants to remember regardless of where they are from. It will be a continuing memorial that can be added to as needed.
The Sargent Veterans Memorial Committee was formed to oversee the project and plan fundraising events. Committee members are Mandie Zulkoski, Jan Oeltjen, Brandi Wilson and Kathy Wilson.
Several fundraisers have been done for the project, including a SWAT Christmas play and auction last year with proceeds donated to the project. This past summer, the committee hosted concession stands for mud drag events. They have recycling trailers parked at the memorial site to collect aluminum cans, and Wilson says they have gotten a very good response to that. They have also had farmers donate bushels of corn toward the project. A fundraising project currently underway is an upcoming auction for a handmade quilt, donated by Rosemary Nelson of Elyria.
Dennis had made two large portable picnic tables which the committee rents. They are also raising funds through the sale of bricks and stars for the veterans memorial.
“This memorial is not just a wall,” Wilson explains. “It will be a place where you can sit, relax and feel proud to see your veteran’s name on a brick. It will become a part of Sargent history forever.”
Those who want to be a part of the memorial but do not have a veteran to honor can purchase a star on the donors flag which will be located at the memorial site. The stars will have the donors names on them showing your support for this wonderful community project.
Bricks displaying the name of your veteran displayed prominently in the memorial may be purchased for $100. Personal donations for stars only are $250 for a bronze star, $500 for a silver star and $1,000 for a gold star.
Wilson moved to Sargent five years ago to be near her parents, and met Dennis soon after. She describes the four and a half years she spent with him as “the best years of my life.”
“I can get angry about how short our time was together, but I also know how lucky I am to have had the time with him I did. Some people never find what we had.”
She says it is that love that is driving her and the many others who knew and loved Dennis to see this project through.
“I have to follow through with Dennis’s wishes on this and believe in it as much as he did.”
“He really loves the people in this town. He says the people in Sargent never let him down, and he wanted to give back as much as they gave him.”
Wilson hopes to have the memorial done by next year. As one final tribute to the man she loved, she also plans to place Dennis’s boots somewhere near the entrance of the memorial with a plaque reading, “Built by his dreams - one step at a time.”
* If you would like more information on purchasing a brick or a star, or making a donation to help support this project, contact Jan Oeltjen at the First National Bank in Sargent.