Monday to mark Memorial Day, veterans and people who support them will gather at 4th and Wisconsin, and parade to the War Memorial Center. The Milwaukee tradition dates back to 1865. After the procession, a wreath laying ceremony will take place at the reflecting pool.
Vietnam veteran Peter Pochowski is helping oversee the restoration of the structure. He serves as chairman of the board of trustees of the War Memorial Center.
It was designed by Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen. When he died in 1950, Saarinen’s son Eero took over the project.
Pochowski wants want to respect what the architect had in mind, despite the rust that has accumulated.
“We could have torn it all down and put up something entirely with different metals, but we want to maintain the integrity of this building,” Pochowski says.
Instead, a crew will dismantle the glass encased staircase that rises above the reflecting pool.
“Take it all apart, acid all of the rust off of it, sand all of the metal and it’ll be beautiful once it’s done and it’ll be just like it was when he built it,” Pochowski says.
Veterans names are etched into the stone surrounding the reflecting pool.
“It was designed for World War II so it starts off here with the World War II veterans, the name of all Milwaukee County veterans who died. It goes around the other side to the Korean War veterans, and then it comes over to this side to the Vietnam War,” Pochowski says.
Pochowski says part of his job is to make sure the veterans are not forgotten.
“That their stories are told It’s not so much how they died that’s important, it’s how they lived,” Pochowski says.
Pochowski points out the names of friends who died during the Vietnam War.
“Here I am 66 years old, I have grandkids. I went to school with a couple of these guys and they don’t have that. They died at 19 and they don’t have any of this. Memories of getting married and having my own kids and grandkids. All of these joys that they don’t have,” Pochowski says.
He wants to give back to friends who didn’t come home.
Pochowski reads a plaque that’s recently been added as part of the War Memorial Center’s restoration.
This eternal flame burns brightly over the 3,481 names surrounding the reflecting pool This honor role pays tribute to the Milwaukeee County residents killed in action since World War II. Freedom is not free.