There are several locations in the Rockford region that pay tribute to those who have served in the military for our country. I hold a great deal of respect for those who have served because not only have my two grandfathers both served in the military, but my husband, father-in-law and brother-in-law all have as well. Each one of these memorials in the region is unique, and I encourage you to go see each one in person for yourself to fully appreciate them!
Veterans Memorial Hall and Museum
211 N. Main St. (Rockford)
Veterans Memorial Hall is the first war memorial building in the United States. It was dedicated in 1903 which included ceremonies attended by none other than President Theodore Roosevelt. The building is a tribute to Rockford citizens who have served in the Armed Forces. Inside the building are several display cases showcasing uniforms and artifacts from the Civil War, World War I, World War II and Camp Grant. In 1976, the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Civil War Memorial
211 N. Main St. (Rockford)
You won't have to go far at all to see this second memorial. Just on the east side of the Veterans Memorial Hall building, this sculpture has recently found a new home in this location. The sculpture depicts a Civil War infantryman on top of a stone Corinthian column. The sculpture originally stood in the foyer of the old Winnebago County Courthouse and was a gift from the G.A.R. Auxiliary in 1877. After several location changes, it's current home outside Veterans Memorial Hall seems like a fitting place for this sculpture.
Corner of Mulberry and N. Main St. (Rockford)
Located just south of Veterans Memorial Hall, this sculpture shows six figures of men and women of diverse ethnic groups from all branches of the Armed Services. They represent veterans of World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Persian Gulf. No element of the sculpture was cast. Thousands of individual pieces were cut, hammered and welded together for this bronze and aluminum sculpture.
Field of Honor
100 Heart Blvd. (Loves Park)
This Field of Honor memorial honors veterans who served in the five wars of the 20th century: World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Persian Gulf. There are 5 vertical columns for each of the 5 wars, and 8 life-size statues of men and women from a variety of military branches. Behind the columns and statues are a series of 40 American flags, and there is also a small column honoring civilian contributions to the war efforts. This memorial is a little more special to me because in high school, I attended a Veterans Day ceremony each year at Loves Park City Hall when our high school band would perform at the ceremony. The ceremony was always moving because a war veteran would be the keynote speaker. Afterwards, there would be a short program outside where Taps would play out by the memorial.
LZ Peace Memorial
6799 Guilford Rd. (Rockford)
The LZ Peace Memorial on the grounds of Midway Village Museum is a little more unique than others in Rockford in that there is a real helicopter on display. A Huey helicopter is part of the memorial because helicopters like that played a huge role for people in the military in Vietnam at the time. Food, supplies, ammunition and communication with loved ones back home all came from helicopters. The memorial also features a black granite wall engraved with the 73 names of Winnebago County residents who died in Vietnam or later due to war injuries. One of the newer memorials includes the LZ Agent Orange Memorial located near the helicopter. This memorial lists the names of local veterans who survived the Vietnam war but died years later from the effects of being exposed to the deadly chemical dioxin, otherwise known as Agent Orange.
Keeling-Puri Peace Plaza
Perryville Rd. just south of Riverside Blvd. (Rockford)
Although this is not technically a veteran memorial, this site does depict the hope for peace for all veterans and citizens alike. The Keeling-Puri Peace Plaza shows a large, metal map of the world in the center of a paved area. The outside of the are is surrounded by several flagpoles flying the flags of the major native countries of Rockford's first-generation immigrants. Also among the flagpoles are also a series of peace poles and a timeline of immigration in Rockford. There is a special area of this site showcasing the flags of all of Rockford's Sister Cities as well.