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Operation Freedom Memorial installed in Wichita’s Veterans Memorial Park

Workers with SI Memorials in Parsons and Allied Crane in Wichita install an engraved panel of the Operation Freedom Memorial in Veterans Memorial Park. (March 12, 2014)
Workers with SI Memorials in Parsons and Allied Crane in Wichita install an engraved panel of the Operation Freedom Memorial in Veterans Memorial Park. (March 12, 2014) The Wichita Eagle

Anita Dixon lost her son, U.S. Army Sgt. Evan Parker, in 2005 while he was deployed in Iraq.

So seeing his name Thursday among around 90 others etched on the Operation Freedom Memorial she spearheaded efforts to build gives her a sense of comfort and “eases a heavy burden.”

“It’s very honorable to know that this generation of (soldiers killed in) conflicts is alongside all of their other military family that has served and sacrificed in the past,” she said.

Construction crews on Thursday installed the black granite panels and a bronze statue of a kneeling solider at the monument, the latest addition to Veterans Memorial Park, 339 N. Veterans Parkway. Dixon, who witnessed part of the installation, said there are still “quite a few cosmetic things that need to be done” to the memorial – including pouring a sidewalk that will connect it to the rest of the park – but she expects it to be open for public viewing within the next 10 days.

The monument memorializes Kansans who have died in the fight against terrorism. The cost of the project is about $225,000, including in-kind services.

Dixon, president of the Operation Freedom Memorial Foundation, said her vision for the monument began in 2008.

“When I visited Veterans Park (after my son died), my earliest question was when are we going to recognize those who sacrificed and served in Iraq and Afghanistan,” she said.

“I didn’t know the first thing about what I was supposed to do, but I had some elderly veterans that really led me along.”

The Operation Freedom Memorial Foundation is planning a public dedication of the monument May 17. It’s set for 1 p.m., Dixon said.

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