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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Demand for World War II bricks far exceeds expectations

BY RICK PLUMLEE
The Wichita Eagle

Bricks are piling up.

And that's good news for the folks getting ready to put a World War II monument at Wichita's Veterans Memorial Park.

To pay for the $50,000 project, organizers earlier this year began selling commemorative bricks honoring World War II vets for $100 each.

The original goal was to sell 500 bricks for a sidewalk leading up to the monument, but that was changed to 720 to help accommodate the demand. Still more requests came.

"It has succeeded beyond our wildest dreams," said Phil Blake, an 87-year-old World War II veteran and one of the leaders of the effort.

So the group has decided to add a second sidewalk with 400 bricks, putting the total at 1,120. That would bring in more money than is needed to fund the project, so the rest will be put in a maintenance fund for the monument, Blake said.

The terrain surrounding the monument won't allow for more than 1,120 bricks.

Blake said he doesn't expect to sell that many before the monument is completed and a dedication ceremony is held Nov. 12.

"But we'll put in blank bricks, then pull them out and engrave them as we get more requests," he said. "Our goal at first was to sell enough bricks to get it built, but the sentiment for this has been absolutely staggering."

The bricks are engraved with a veteran's name, branch of service, theater of operation and dates of service. The sidewalks will lead up to the monument — two 6-foot-tall, 8-inch-thick granite panels.

The project has been dubbed "Operation Kilroy," in reference to the bald-headed man poking his long nose over a wall next to the inscription "Kilroy was here." That popped up across the country and in war zones during World War II, and it will be engraved on the back of one of the panels.

Those who want to have an engraved brick in the sidewalk before the November ceremony will need to get their order in as soon as possible, Blake said.

Requests for a brick should be sent to Operation Kilroy, P.O. Box 4754, Wichita, KS 67204. Checks should be made payable to Operation Kilroy.

The group plans to sort and lay the bricks on Oct. 15.

Reach Rick Plumlee at 316-268-6660 or rplumlee@wichitaeagle.com.

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