Illinois Vietnam Veterans Memorial History

A graphic of the Illinois Vietnam Veterans Memorial
The Illinois Vietnam Veterans Memorial Dedication
The Memorial at Night

Background Summary from Dennis Eveland:

Our memorial is located in Springfield, IL. built in May 1988. This was a reality after four long years of fund raising. Eventually the State of Illinois kicked in the remaning funds. This is a special memorial in tht two retired Marines, both wounded in Vietnam came up with the idea of building this during their vigil at The Wall in D.C.

Unfortunately one of the two passed away in an accident at his American Legion Post of which he was Commander. We are about to hold our ten year reunion in 1998 to which all veterans are invited to come, have a great celebration, or "one helluva party". We started planning this last year and we are still in these stages as I write you this. This will be May 1-3, 1998.

Our memorial is a circular design with no beginning and no end, much like a wheel with the spokes being walls for each branch of the service, and a list of the POW/MIA's. There are five grey granite walls, eternal flame atop these in the center where they meet. Then longer black granite walls continuing out from each of these listing all those KIA from Illinois. Then there are five short outside black granite walls with walkways in between each that gives access to the walls within. Engraved on the outside short walls is the following:

  1. The design was chosen by Vietnam Veterans, wives, widows of Veterans, and family members of deceased Veterans or missing in action.
  2. The designer is Jerome Lager, a resident from Breese, Illinois.
  3. The architect, a Vietnam Veteran, Gary Likins of the firm Bradley, Likins, Dillow, and Drayton, of Decatur, Illinois.
  4. The Officers:
    • Chairman: Michael K. Ferguson
    • Vice Chairman: Perry L. Murry
    • Secretary: Ralph M. Walker
    • Treasurer: James P. Mathes
  5. Governor of Illinois at the time was James R. Thompson
  6. Legal Advisor was Edward W. Huntley of Holley Keith, and Huntley.
  7. Trustees: Don Sier, Randy Shook, Dennis L. Eveland, and James Lahr.
  8. IVVM is located in Oak Ridge Cemetary. This is also just down from Lincoln's Tomb State Memorial Site, in Springfield, Il.


At the November 11. 1982 Vietnam Veterans Memorial dedication in Washington D.C., two veterans from Illinois, Richard Stahl and Mike Ferguson, began to dream of building a monument to serve as an eternal reminder of the unique Brotherhood of the Illinois Vietnam Veteran - a tribute to their fallen and missing comrades-in-arms.

Stahl's untimely death in May of 1984 spurred his friends, led by Furgeson, to an even greater dedication to making the dream come true.

On Independence Day, 1984, the first major Illinois Vietnam Veterans Memorial fundraiser was held at Spitler Woods State Park, near Mount Zion, and on September 19, 1984, the first statewide meeting was held to begin to generate the needed public and legislative support for this monumental task.

Fundraiser continued throughout the state and by spring of 1985, the committee began the search for an appropriate building site for the yet undesigned monument.

A statewide open competition was held that year to determine the design of the future Illinois Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Under the guidance of an architect, artist and monument specialist, a committee of veterans and their families selected the design submitted by then twenty year old Jerome A. Lager of Breese, Illinois.

Lager's design was a circular stone monument comprised of five black granite walls with interior courtyards, representing each of the five branches of service. At the center of the circle, a fifteen foot high wall of gray granite will stand with an eternal flame burning at the top of the wall where the courtyards merge. The names of the 2956 Illinois servicemen who died or are still missing would be engraved on the monument, along with the message, "To those who died, honor and eternal rest; to those still in bondage, remembrance and hope; to those who returned, gratitude and peace."

Support for the Memorial began to pour in from virtually every segment of the population. Governor James R. Thompson declared November 11, 1985 Vietnam Veterans Memorial Year. A joint House Resolution was passed in support of the Memorial. State veterans' organizations and local posts made tremendous financial contributions. Funds were raised from all sectors of Illinois - individuals, corporations, public and private donors.

In March, 1986, the Oak Ridge Cemetery Board and the City of Springfield donated 1.96 acres within the cemetery grounds near Lincoln's Tomb State Historic Site for the Memorial Site. Ground breaking ceremonies were held on Sunday, November 9, 1986 at Oak Ridge Cemetery. Attendance was estimated at 600.

Construction was underway, but by January of 1987 only half of the needed $1.25 million had been raised, despite a $485,000 appropriation by the Illinois General Assembly. Raising funds for the Memorial began to be difficult and physically and emotionally draining for the committee members. The original November, 1987 dedication of the structure would have to be delayed.

Yet, November 10, 1987 was to be a happy day after all. "We have found a way to complete the Memorial" announced Governor James R. Thompson. "The considerable investment by the people of Illinois, both financial and emotional, will be preserved." The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was placed under the administration of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency as a permanent state memorial.

Today, May 7, 1988, the dream has become a reality.

Information and pictures provided by Larry Gillespie. Larry can be reached via email at: