Construction underway for Women’s Legacy Memorial on courthouse square

By Alyx Arnett, 6/29/21, the Kokomo Perspective

The northeast corner of the courthouse square has been undergoing a transformation as brick is laid, concrete poured, and pedestals placed.

The construction is the beginning of what will become the Women’s Legacy Memorial, a years-long project led by Howard County Veterans Memorial Corp. President Jerry Paul. The new memorial will allow passersby to visit the small park-esque area that will feature three life-sized bronze sculptures of women standing atop the pedestals marked “faith,” “honor,” and “duty.”

Paul has been fund raising for the $500,000 project for more than five years, and to see it coming to fruition now is a dream come true. And it’s coming together just as he imagined it in his head.

“It’s like having a dream that you don’t think can happen, and then you’ve got the right people that are involved. A lot of people think that you designed something. And they don’t realize that you might design something, but somebody’s got the end result,” he said. “The designer is not the builder, and you just hope you have the right people. I have the right people. There’s going to be nothing like this in Indiana.”

Paul was drafted in the U.S. Army in 1968 and went on to serve as a U.S. Army specialist 5th class in Vietnam from ‘70 to ’71. He was the recipient of a Meritorious Service Medal for the work he did as a crew chief on a medivac helicopter.

While he served his country in the ‘60s and ‘70s, he’s served his community in the decades since. And this isn’t his first go-around with a monument. Paul was the driving force behind the Blue/Gold Star Family Memorial that was installed at Veterans Memorial Park in 2015. That monument features a life-sized man, woman, and child and symbolizes the separation families face when loved ones are deployed.

Now, with the help of community donations and a $50,000 matching state grant, he’s giving women a monument that’s entirely their own. It’s something that’s not seen often, he said, and something that’s long overdue.

womens memorial kokomo
REPRESENTATION — Jerry Paul, president of the Howard County Veterans Memorial Corp., looks on as the Women’s Legacy Memorial takes shape on the northeast corner of the courthouse square.

“It really acknowledges women’s achievements in their past, present, and future. It’s not a cure-all for our past and our marginalizing women, but it’s a teaching moment. We hope that not only is it going to be a beautiful addition to the courthouse, but it’s going to be something that everybody will appreciate what we’re doing, recognizing women,” he said.

The three life-sized women who will grace the pedestals are Rosie the Riveter, who represents working women; a woman of color modeled after the first female African-American fighter pilot in the history of the U.S. Air Force, Shawna Rochelle Kimbrell from Lafayette; and a modern-day female soldier with a musket and a prosthetic leg to symbolize the physical and emotional sacrifice of servicewomen.

With Paul, there’s no question whether he’s a veteran. He wears his Vietnam veteran hat proudly, and his truck is wrapped in the American flag. But when it comes to women veterans, he said they’re much quieter about their time in the service. He hopes the memorial inspires women to wear their service proudly.

“There are so many women who you’d never know they were in the military. They don’t wear any kind of garb like it do. My truck screams ‘veteran.’ But women don’t do that, and I want women to be empowered and be proud of their service,” he said. “When somebody says, ‘Oh, you’re in the service?’ I want women to look them in the eye and say, ‘Yeah, there’s thousands of us, and we’re proud of what we’ve done.’ I want to send the message that women sacrificed too.”

As for the woman of color who’s represented, he hopes the memorial will help recognize the two glass ceilings those women have to go through, while the working woman represents every women in America who works and serves her country in that way.

The accomplishments of women, Paul said, are rarely acknowledged, and he hopes the Women’s Legacy Memorial will help “right a wrong” in history when it comes to the marginalizing of women.

“None of us got on this earth without going through a woman first. Why would we not honor women? This is like seeing Mother’s Day every day,” he said. “Why would we not honor them? They’ve been marginalized their whole life.”

Renowned sculptor Benjamin Victor, who was the artist behind the Blue/Gold Star Family Monument, also was commissioned for this project. Victor is the only living artist to have three works in the National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol.

Construction on the memorial will continue this summer, and Paul plans to have it dedicated on Friday, Aug. 6, during First Friday.