Clarence Wieberg remembers when the bomb-loaded plane crashed only about 100 yards away from him.
Wieberg, who lives in Dodge, served in the U.S. Marines during the Korean War. At the time of the crash, he and other men were building an airport in Korea.
“We were kind of right behind the front line,” he said.
Wieberg was running a caterpillar to build up a road for the airport. It was a summer afternoon.
He saw the plane take off and get about 100 feet into the air — then crash flat.
Military personnel rushed to the scene. The pilot was fine.
And no bombs exploded.
Wieberg still marvels at the miracle.
“If it would have exploded, we would have all been gone,” he said.
Some 65 years later, Wieberg — whose nickname is “Doc” — stood near the Dodge Veterans Memory Park at 224 N. Oak St.
Dedicated on Memorial Day, the park offers a quiet reminder of sacrifices made to help protect freedom in the United States. About 500 people attended the dedication ceremony and many people come to Dodge to see the park.
A paved ribbon walkway of three different textures leads guests to the memorial.
The centerpiece is a five-sided monument with an eagle at the top. Scenes from World Wars I and II and the Korean, Vietnam and Gulf War on Terror are depicted on the monument’s panels. Names on the monument represent veterans who paid the ultimate price for their country’s freedom.
In front of the monument is a life-size statue of a Korean War soldier.
The memorial also includes four donated benches which depict people and scenes from World War II, Korea, Desert Storm and Kosovo.
Three kiosks have tiles with individual names of veterans along with their rank and years of service.
Like a park planned for Fremont, some tiles feature a picture and a scan-able quick reference barcode that links to the veteran’s own personal webpage, which can be updated with information and photographs for years to come.
The memorial has four fallen soldier statues as well. Each statue depicts a soldier’s helmet, boots and rifle.
Nearby, a large black- and gray-painted mural depicts the iconic scene of U.S. Marines raising an American flag on Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II.
Kim Anderson, then an art teacher for Dodge-Howells Public Schools, and three of her students, Haley Eikmeier, Mallory Rolf and Caitlin Klasen, created the mural on the side of the adjacent veteran’s building.
The park was designed by West Point Monument and a Dodge committee.
Rolf Masonry Construction of Dodge did the work.
After he came home from the war, Wieberg promised himself that he would forget about what happened there.
“My service life was history and that’s the way I wanted to keep it,” he said.
But then the combat veteran went on a Korean War Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., where he was inspired by the memorials.
A previous memorial, south of the veteran’s club in Dodge, had deteriorated.
So Wieberg, who’s the commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8597 in Dodge, sat down with Willy Anderson, a fellow veteran.
Anderson, the VFW quartermaster, served two tours of duty in the U.S. Army Reserves in 2004-05 and 2010-11 during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
“We started talking about it (the memorial),” Anderson said.
They scratched out a picture on a napkin at the veterans’ club. Anderson then began talking with Earl Boston of West Point Monument Company.
“He really got involved with us and we did the tiles,” Anderson said.
Then the fundraising began. Several organizations had fundraising events and the community rallied around the project.
“The best part about the whole thing was all of us doing all of that together — getting together and putting on these fundraisers,” he said. “People that weren’t even in the military volunteered their time to help put on fundraisers. The support we got was awesome.”
Construction started in August 2013 and was completed in the fall of 2016.
Wieberg estimates the park cost about $230,000 and that figure doesn’t include all the volunteer labor.
Looking at the park on Tuesday morning, Wieberg smiled.
It will be a memorial that will honor the veterans for years to come.