DOWNERS GROVE – The well-traveled Tim Bodden memorial might find its final location this summer – a metal stand near the entrance of Fishel Park.
Last year, efforts by Downers Grove resident Steve Williams and the American Legion Alexander Bradley Burns Post 80 prompted the Downers Grove Park District to remove the plaque, called the Freedom Memorial, from storage and display it in Fishel Park.
The district set it in stone, in the ground on the south perimeter of the park – which never sat well with Williams, a Vietnam veteran who said he thought it should be given a more respectful placement, somewhere it could not be stepped on or possibly desecrated.
The plaque honors Bodden – a 24-year-old from Downers Grove who was killed June 3, 1967, in Vietnam – and the others killed or missing.
Williams and Mike Gilbert, the father of a Marine killed in Iraq, lobbied the district board this spring to have the plaque mounted on the Veterans Memorial Pavilion band shell in the park.
The district decided not to mount it on the pavilion, instead choosing a metal pedestal near the entrance of the park. Moving the plaque to the entrance also returns the plaque to where it stood in the park from 1989 to 2010.
“The idea behind it is to lift it off the ground so it can’t be walked on or stepped on and it becomes more visible,” Downers Grove Park District Board President Matt Cushing said. “We’re moving it over more towards the entrance so it will definitely get more attention.”
He said the board also liked the idea of moving it to its first location in the park more than finding a new place on the pavilion to mount it.
Williams accepts the compromise but thinks the Veterans Pavilion is the obvious choice.
“It’s better than on the ground,” he said. “But it’s not ideal, in my opinion.”
It’s important to Williams that residents remember those who made sacrifices there and in other wars.
“I have a friend from high school that’s Missing in Action in Vietnam, and I’m still wearing his POW-MIA bracelet to this day,” Williams said. “Honoring those who have not come back is extremely important to me, and I wish everybody else felt that way.”
Park district officials said the maintenance crew is fabricating the new stand, and it hopes to have it installed as soon as possible.
Its new location could be the end of a beleaguered journey for the plaque.
It originally was installed at Downers Grove Fire Station No. 3, along with a Freedom Flame, sometime in the 1970s, although in 1974, the flame was extinguished because of rising natural gas costs.
In 1989, the memorial was moved for the first time, when it was brought from the fire station to Fishel Park. It was removed in 2010 when the district planned construction of the Veterans Memorial Pavilion.
It sat in storage until last year, when Williams prompted the park to display it.
Park district officials said they do not know what happened to the metal eternal flame rig and the only part of the original monument remaining besides the plaque is a piece of concrete that served as the pipe’s base.