GOSHEN — Steven Kiser’s name is in a special place in Goshen.
Kiser, of Elkhart, was killed in action while serving his country during the Persian Gulf War. His name is the last one on the bottom of the war memorial wall on the grounds of the Elkhart County Courthouse.
While hundreds of motorists hurriedly pass by each day, Kiser’s name hangs in eternal patience, hammered into brass on the plaque that also has long columns of other names to honor those whose lives were lost while they served during the wars spanning from World War I to the Gulf War.
For many years there were just the names of those who died in the two World Wars on the memorial. But in 1988, according to retired Veterans Services officer Gary Whitehead, the community gathered in the summer to add the names of veterans killed in Korea and Vietnam. Eventually, more names will be added after Kiser’s.
“When the president ends this war and every American is home, then we will add the names from Iraq and Afghanistan,” Whitehead said. “The names are listed in alphabetical order from each war. We could add the names now but it would cost more if someone was killed and we had to move the names around. When every soldier is out of there, then we will get together and add those names and honor everyone in a ceremony.”
Whitehead said the county government maintains the grounds and lighting around the memorial while members of Delta Theta Tau sorority in Goshen plant flowers each spring around the edges of the walkway up to the brass plaque.
Ron Lundy, the current Elkhart County Veterans Service officer, and Whitehead raised three colorful new flags Thursday afternoon to prepare for Veterans Day — an American flag, an Elkhart County flag and the Indiana state flag,
“We put up new flags for Veterans Day and will leave them up until Memorial Day unless they get torn or ripped,” Whitehead said. “We’ve never had a flag stolen, but we’ve had some lights broken.”
Whitehead looked at the many dozens of names on the memorial as the flags gently flapped overhead in the cold wind.
His eyes misted up.
Old Bullion returns
The eyes of another veteran were also misty Thursday afternoon while they looked over a reborn “Old Bullion” on the opposite side of the courthouse lawn facing Third Street.
Arthur Baer Sr. watched as the Civil War cannon was bolted down in front of the courthouse after undergoing an extensive refinishing.
“It’s great. It’s beautiful,” said 84-year-old Baer, a World War II Army veteran. “It hurt me to see it falling apart. That (cannon) honors our Civil War veterans. It reminds me vets fought for our country long ago. They need honor. I’m American from the top of my hairs to the tip of my toenails. It hurt me so I set my head to do something about it, but they had removed it. My goal was to get vet organizations to pay for it and I did.”
Baer raised $1,019 for the repairs.
“It’s special to be here and have it come back. It means the world to me. I think it’s a great day,” he said, smiling. “Mission accomplished.”
The cannon’s barrel was in pretty good shape, but the heavy wooden carriage had deteriorated from standing in the weather for many years. Before the repairs, a board had been placed beneath the carriage to keep it upright.
Wanda Hoffman, a member of Goshen Historical Society, has done some research on the cannon and found it was donated in 1924 to the county by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 985.
She said “Old Bullion,” as the artillery piece is known, is a Civil War vintage muzzle loader. The cannon was refurbished in 1954, 1974, 1983 and again in 2013.
“Local legend has it that at one time, it was wheeled into Main Street, loaded with powder charge and leaves and actually fired at political rallies or special events,” Hoffman said. “The torch hole was spiked to prevent its firing and to make it safe.”
The cannon was removed from the courthouse property June 24 and taken to Wana Wheels in Shipshewana for repairs, said Circuit Court Judge Terry C. Shewmaker.
Nick Gaff and Mike Trujillo, security officers with the Elkhart County Sheriff’s Department, Clifford R. Williams from the public defender’s office, Phil Wogoman, Barney Beer and Mike Cross helped Shewmaker move the cannon to a trailer.
“On the way to Shipshewana, we stopped by Elkhart County Gravel’s gravel pit and weighed the cannon,” Shewmaker said. “On return without the cannon, we reweighed the truck and trailer. The net result is the cannon weighted approximately 980 pounds. It really looks good. It’s fantastic.”
The forgotten memorial
One other memorial to veterans has been moved around in downtown and goes mostly unnoticed at its location at Fifth and Washington streets.
It will be 90 years ago Monday when that memorial gift, a plaque imbedded into a large stone, was given to honor the heroes of Goshen who died in the First World War by the Gamma Taus sorority.
Armistice Day was declared Nov. 11, 1918 and five years later, Goshen’s first war memorial was unveiled at a public service. According to an article in The Goshen News archives, the rock for the monument came from a field in Elkhart County and was set by McDougall Monument Co.
The memorial first stood on the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Third Street in front of old City Hall under a huge memorial evergreen tree. When City Hall was razed to make room for a parking lot, the World War I monument was moved to its present site, which used to be in the front of the American Legion Post. The post has since been converted to Boscos event center. The evergreen tree was cut down.
“In 1923, only one world war was thought of and there were to be no more, so the members of Gamma Tau gave to the city of Goshen a monument to memorialize those men who given their lives in the war still fresh in people’s minds.”
Baer said he wasn’t aware of Goshen’s rock monument for WWI veterans.
“I am now, and so will more people if I live long enough,” Baer said.