By Jake Kurtz
A record crowd occupied the lawn at Veterans Memorial Park in downtown DeForest Monday to witness history as part of the community’s annual Memorial Day ceremony.
The event, sponsored annually by the DeForest Veterans Memorial Foundation (DVMF) since the organization formed a decade ago, always offers an educational component. This year’s lesson was the history behind the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.
To emphasize this year’s message, DVMF and a collection of volunteers from Calvary Gospel Church of Madison worked to create a first-ever full-scale replica of the tomb that houses the remains of unknown American soldiers dating back to World War I.
“When I first brought this up to the Foundation board, their initial response was ‘Are you out of your mind?’” laughed Jeff Unger, DVMF co- founder and past president. “But I asked them to trust me and they luckily approved it and the rest is now history.”
Standing eight feet tall and constructed with steel, plaster and foam, the replica tomb was installed at the park last week and will remain available for viewing around the clock through Saturday. Unger encouraged those who are curious to come see the structure at night with the lights upon it.
Making Monday’s ceremony all the more special was an appearance by Gov. Scott Walker, who presented a ceremonial wreath at the tomb and addressed the crowd. Walker said his office receives several requests to attend various Memorial Day events throughout the state, but when he first heard about the tomb in DeForest he knew it was a must.
“It really is quite extraordinary,” Walker said of the local tomb. “When they first told me about it, I thought it would be interesting, but this is phenomenal.”