Adding to the honor

An update to the Black Hills Veterans Memorial in Rapid City will bring more names and more stories of fallen Black Hills military heroes to light later this year. Pictured is an artist’s rendition of the upgraded monument. Courtesy graphic

RAPID CITY — The Black Hills Veterans Memorial, located at Memorial Park in Rapid City, will soon be upgraded to the Black Hills War Monument to honor even more of the brave men and women from the Black Hills who have served their country in the military.

“(The current monument) ends at Desert Storm, and that was 30 years ago. So, we’re going to update it … to include Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Cold War,” explained Edward Manzano, president of the Black Hills War Monument Association. “And then we have one wall only for prisoners of war (POW), missing in action (MIA) from all wars.”

The update will include six, 4-foot-by-5-foot slabs of Dakota red granite, inscribed with the names of around 700 military service members from the Black Hills region who were either killed in action, taken prisoner of war, or are still classified as missing in action. The names of Native American service members will have a red feather engraved next to them. The phrase “NEVER FORGET” will also be carved on each wall. The walls will sit behind flags representing the six branches of the United States military, including the newly formed Space Force.

“There’s a concrete walkway so you can walk all the way around, all the flags will be lit, there will be surveillance cameras in case anything bad happens like anybody tries to damage something, we’ll have it on video tape,” Manzano said.

Construction is scheduled to begin in the spring, with an estimated dedication between Sept. 11 and Nov. 11. The cost for the project is approximately $100,000 to $125,000.

The updated monument won’t just stand as a testament to the bravery of fallen Black Hills heroes, it will also serve as a way to connect with the history of those heroes.

“Part of our goal is not just to have their names in granite, but to have people know the stories behind those names,” Manzano said.

Each of the walls will include a QR code that visitors can scan with their smart phone, which will take them to the “Walls of Honor” tab on the Black Hills War Monument Association’s website. Each page contains an alphabetical listing of the names which will be carved into the wall. The list also contains information about each service member, such as where in the Black Hills they’re from, what branch of the military they served in, their date of birth and/or date of death, as well as links to other memorial websites like findagrave and honorstates, which detail more personal information about that individual.

Manzano used 1st. Lt. Laurence E. Radlinger, from Rapid City, who served in the U.S. Army Air Corps in the 2047th Engineer Fire Fighting Platoon, as an example of the kind of information available on the website.

Radlinger was assigned to the Advance Landing Ground A-71 in Chastres, France when, on Dec. 9, 1944, a B-26 bomber crash landed on the runway while it was returning from a mission and caught fire. Radlinger led his firefighting platoon onto the scene, along with other medical crews, who began to try to contain the fire and rescue the crew of the downed plane. While attempting to rescue a third crewmember, the bomb load of the B-26 exploded, killing all but two of the men involved, including Radlinger.

“These are the types of soldiers that we want to highlight in our area,” Manzano said. “He happens to be from Rapid City, but there’s soldiers from… all throughout the Black Hills that have stories like this.”

The Black Hills War Monument Association was able to find Radlinger’s nephew, who lives in Belle Fourche, and talk with him about his uncle’s service and inclusion on the monument.

“He’s very, very thrilled about what we’re doing,” Manzano said.

As part of the story-telling piece to the monument, Manzano asks that anyone with a connection to a Black Hills service member visit’s the association’s website to review the information they have. If there are any gaps in the records, or if a name has been omitted, he encourages them to reach out by April 1, so it can be included before the monument’s dedication.

In addition to the war monument, Manzano said the association plans to start an essay contest for school children.

“We want to offer, each year, an essay on freedom contest and have an annual prize that the student could use to buy school supplies, or really use to buy whatever they want, but the theme is gonna be on freedom,” he said.

Once the monument is complete, Manzano said the association will announce the essay contest. The priority for right now is completing the monument and making sure there is enough funding to maintain the grounds once it’s complete, so details about the essay contest are still spares, but Manzano said he anticipates it being open to all schools in the Black Hills.

“Why not. I would say, ‘open it up to the entire Black Hills,’” he said. “It’s called the Black Hills War Monument, right.”

For more information about the Black Hills War Monument, or to make a donation visit www.bhwma.org.

To learn about the men and women whose names have already been included on the monument, click the “Walls of Honor” tab at the top of the screen then select the conflict in which they served. Contact Manzano through the “Contact” tab on the website, to add a name, or any additional information.

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