By Kristin Rover
On the anniversary of Korean War Armistice Day July 27, dozens of veterans, Clermont County officials and residents gathered for the dedication of the Korean War Memorial in Miami Township.
Korean War veterans William Knepp, Robert Sterling, and the late R.J. Vilardo, as part of the Spirit of 76’ Memorial Gardens and Arboretum Committee, had a dream to build the war memorial several years ago.
“We joined together to create the Korean War Committee,” Knepp said. “You see the fruits of our labor today.”
Knepp said the committee planned and raised funds for the memorial to go in the Spirit of ’76 Memorial Park by reaching out to individuals, businesses and organizations in the community.
The result of their dedicated planning and fund-raising was a monument that is now part of the Spirit of ’76 Memorial Gardens and Arboretum in Miami Meadows Park.
“It is a privilege to read a proclamation concerning this project,” Miami Township Trustee Karl Schultz said during the unveiling ceremony.
The ceremony included several speakers and musical performances as well as a flag presentation by the The Clermont County Marine Corps League Association,
State and county officials who spoke during the ceremony included State Representative Doug Green, State Senator Joseph Uecker, and Clermont County Commissioner Ed Humphrey.
Gary Knepp, a historian and the son of Bill Knepp, recalled some of the history of the Korean War during the ceremony, and painted a picture of what it was like to be a soldier fighting in the war.
Knepp talked about how Korea has changed since the war, and he recognized veterans for their service.
“These veterans before you didn’t get their homecoming,” Gary Knepp said about the Korean War veterans. “We respect you for doing your duty, we thank you, we love you, we honor you. Welcome home.”
Bill Knepp took time to thank individuals who helped make the Korean War Memorial possible.
Knepp said Jeff Lykins, president and CEO of Lykins Companies, was one of the first supporters of the monument.
“Something like this comes together with one man having a dream and having a mission to achieve that dream,” Lykins said about Knepp. “I am here to say thank you all for making this long-overdue monument happen.”
Knepp said they created and built another monument, called the Patriots Muster Monument to recognize those individuals who went above and beyond with their support for the project.
Knepp also took time to remember Vilardo, who passed away in November.
“R.J. was afraid he wouldn’t see this day,” Knepp said about his fellow committee member. “He is with us today, trust me, his spirit is with us today.”
Knepp said in Vilardo’s memory they placed a white rocking chair, empty, in the front row for the ceremony.
Vilardo’s son, Johnny, also helped place a wreath in front of the memorial before it was unveiled.
“My dad would be so proud,” Johnny Vilardo said.
The monument, created by Maggard Memorial and Laser Beam Technology, was unveiled at the end of the ceremony.
The monument features a scene from an army bunker near Pork Chop Hill in 1952 as well as the dates of the war and military service seals.
The memorial sits at the top of a hill of boulders representing Old Baldy, a battle site during the Korean War.
Bill Knepp said they are still working on future projects for the Spirit of ’76 Memorial Park. The park already features the Trail of Freedom, a walking path with benches featuring American history engravings.
“The dream continues on,” Knepp said about the project.
He said they want to continue to complete projects in the park to honor and recognize veterans of the Korean War, and other wars.
For more information about the Spirit of ’76 Memorial Park, or the Korean War Memorial, visit www.spiritof76memorial.org.