The City of Platte City always envisioned its first monument dedicated to veterans as the centerpiece for ceremonies on patriotic holidays.
Mission accomplished. Dozens turned out on a warm morning Friday, Nov. 11 to celebrate Veterans Day with the dedication of the Platte City Veterans Memorial Monument at Settler’s Crossing Park. The recently completed landmark served as an appropriately looming backdrop to a 20-minute ceremony which started at the top of the 11th hour of the 11th day and 11th month of 2016 — nod to the anniversary of the World War armistice, which went into effect at the same time on the same day in 1918.
The monument features a USS Naval anchor in a concrete and granite cradle in the middle with a circular pedestrian walkway around it. A bench wall contains bronze medallions for each of the five branches of the United States military — Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard — and for the ceremony, flags for each branch flew high and flapped in the wind above the corresponding medallion.
“When this journey started 23 months ago, I didn’t imagine the path would lead to all of you being gathered here today,” Platte City mayor Frank Offutt said. “It’s an incredible journey, and I’ve got a number of people I’ve got to thank because without their help, this wouldn’t have happened. I wanted to recognize the many hands who have helped lift this 13-ton anchor from a salvage yard west of New Orleans and set it here on the banks of the Platte River.”
Preliminary work on the monument began this past spring with the final touches put on just two days before the dedication.
The entrance to the plaza is inset with letters stating “Dedicated to those who serve” and a previously commissioned bronze plaque detailing the history of the USS Platte, named for both rivers by that name flowing through multiple states. The cradle for the anchor, painted white with the chain in black, ended up capped with a light-colored granite after large red boulders — part of the original design — could not be located.
Overall, the project cost about $75,000 with the city seeking out and receiving grant funding in addition to using Platte City Parks and Recreation Department and Platte City Public Works employees to do much of the work. In addition, others in the community donated time and service to help make the project a reality.
Offutt originally set out to locate a smaller memento from the 708½-foot-long, 36,814-ton ship but ended up overwhelmed by the eventual outcome.
“The anchor and the effort invested has proven a success, and as you can appreciate, the saying says, ‘Success has a thousand fathers,’” Offutt said. “But I reflected on that saying by asking, ‘Who was the mother who nurtured this project?’”
Offutt then honored Platte City alderman Vickie Atkins with a special letter of recognition in honor of her service as the appointed chairperson of his anchor monument committee.
Atkins recruited Bobby Vann and Ralph Landes —both local veterans — to help her come up with a design meant to be inviting for the community. An outside company created a digital version of their proposal, and the city chose Settler’s Crossing Park for the setting to put the new monument alongside a Vietnam War-era howitzer artillery gun moved in June of 2006 from the Platte County Courthouse to its current location there.
In remarks at the ceremony, Atkins noted her family’s lengthy history of military service as a big reason for answering the call to work on the monument design.
“We as a family take great pride in serving our country, and that’s the reason that I decided to step forward and be the chair of this committee,” Atkins said. “We came up with a design, worked hard at it, got very involved in materials, watching the construction, making sure that it was done the way we thought veterans would appreciate and that families would want to come and visit and walk around and talk to their children about the different services and just be able to sit and contemplate service to country and talk about the history of our country.
“I hope that everyone who sees this memorial is very happy with it.”
More than a hundred second grade students from Pathfinder Elementary sang a selection of patriotic songs as a prelude to the ceremony.
“I want to extend a warm welcome to all of you for attending today’s ceremony,” Offutt said in opening remarks, “a ceremony that remembers and pays tribute to our men and women that have answered the call and defended our liberties. Thank you for your service; thank you for keeping our nation safe, and thank you for your continued support of our community.”
Offutt then asked for a moment of silence for veterans who were not able to be present.
VFW Post No. 4055 provided a rifle detail and presented the city with a POW/MIA flag to display at the site. Smithville’s American Legion provided the color guard. Local businessman Andy Stanton and two other pilots also engaged in multiple flyovers of the site during the ceremony.
Platte County circuit judge James Van Amburg and Rev. Michael Lazio of Bethel House of Prayer were keynote speakers and helped Offutt unveil the previously commissioned bronze plaque containing a history the two ships named USS Platte.
“I love this monument,” said Lazio, a two-tour veteran of the Vietnam War. “Thank you, mayor Offutt for all the work and the team that was with you. This will be a constant reminder as we view this to remind us of all the sacrifice through all the years of all the families of men and women who have served our nation.”
The USS Platte anchor previously served as the centerpiece of Platte City’s 175th anniversary celebration in July of 2015. This occurred before any of the work began on the monument and just months after its arrival.