BELDING — For nearly two and half years, Denny Craycraft and other members of the Belding community have been working to bring back the Freedom Wall that was decommissioned more than 63 years ago in 1948.
On Wednesday, the first evidence of several years worth of work and fundraising was on display as trucks brought in sand and a bulldozer leveled that sand to prepare for the foundation of the memorial site that will be directly adjacent to the west of the Pere Marquette Depot in downtown Belding.
“The outpouring of the community and seeing this project go forward has been tenfold,” said Craycraft, who spearheaded the project several years ago. “This wall will touch every family in Belding. We just need a bit more in funds to see this project completed.”
According to Craycraft, the first phase of the memorial site, the Freedom Wall, is scheduled to be completed and revealed at 11 a.m. Nov. 11 (Veterans Day) — the same day that that the original wall was taken down in 1948 on the corner of Bridge and Main streets.
“In order to meet our goal in November, we had to start this process now,” he said. “I’ve already had to lay to rest three men this summer who were waiting to see this wall built and fought in World War II. We are running out of time.”
The original wall was about 24 feet long, 12 feet high and 1.5 feet deep. It contained 720 stars of Belding-area veterans, including those from Orleans and Grattan areas. Blue Star Mothers originally built the wall in 1942 to honor World War II veterans.
Craycraft was hoping for the project to be completed by Memorial Day of this year, but complications along the way slowed the project down.
“We’ve run into some hurdles along the way as far as what we can do and can’t do with this project,” he said. “We’ve run into a few setbacks, but as I say, you’ve got to endure heartbreak at times in order to enjoy success, and I have no doubt we are going to be successful.”
Craycraft said the first phase of the project will cost approximately $50,000 to complete, with $25,000 of that having been raised already.
According to Craycraft, additional phases of the project, which include more monuments focusing on other wars outside of World War II, will be built in the future after the completion of the Freedom Wall with additional funds, donations and possible grants.
“We’re still roughly $25,000 short of our $50,000 goal,” he said. “I will continue to actively approach area businesses and organizations for continued donations, as it is very important that we reach our goal and have this wall on display in November.”
Craycraft said he has already been to nearly 50 businesses and will continue to look for more financial support. If anyone is willing to donate to the construction of the Freedom Wall, they can call Craycraft at (616) 550-6990.
On site Wednesday was Denny Hall of Hall’s Trucking and Excavating in Belding, who has donated his time to help with the initial construction of the project.
“We just wanted to donate our time for this project,” he said. “This is a great tribute to the people who gave their lives for us, so this is the least we can do. I’m just honored to be a part of this.”
Hall was busy riding atop his bulldozer as truckloads of sand were brought in Wednesday to prepare for the concrete foundation that will come within the next week or two.
“We are taking all of the topsoil out, about 16 inches,” Hall said. “then we’re bringing in about 5 inches of sand back in to have a base under the concrete that will be poured soon.”
Nov. 11 is just 87 days away, but Craycraft said he is confident that the right people and businesses will continue to come forward and donate to make the goal of a November unveiling a reality.
“We’ve got the ground tore up and things are happening,” he said. “I’ve got the faith in my community to make this happen. We’ve got to raise a bit more, but we’ll get it done.”