Military veterans deserve to be honored with monuments to their bravery, but they also have earned benefits and services the local, state and federal governments have struggled to provide, local legislators and veterans advocates say.

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the 54-foot-long, black granite veterans’ memorial wall in Woodside Cemetery in Middletown. The wall, which has almost 100 laser-etched images and names of fallen soldiers and sailors from the Mexican War through Iraqi Freedom, was the brainchild of former 12th District Court of Appeals Judge Tony Valen, according to Woodside General Manager Fred Wehr.

A committee comprised largely of veterans began planning the memorial prior to Sept. 11, and it took about three years for the 8-foot-high structure to come to fruition. No taxpayer dollars were spent on the memorial that cost about $125,000, and the committee has continued to raise funds through an annual golf outing and the sale of bricks at the wall, to support scholarships for veterans and their families.

Wehr said since Valen died last month at the age of 82, there won’t be a 10th anniversary celebration. But the wall, which is the longest veterans memorial outside of Washington D.C., still commands recognition on its own.

“It gives me goosebumps when we walk up here with a group of veterans. It really is difficult for families coming in for funerals, and they very often get separated from the lead the car and hearse because they are taken aback by this memorial,” Wehr said. “Very often they will come back after the service and look at this for hours… They’ve seen some of the memorials in Washington but they’ve never seen this much variety of images, from all of the wars, that are depicted here on one wall, in one location.”

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