MUNSTER | Park benches dot the pathways that wind through the history lessons, combat tributes and military scenery of the Edward P. Robinson Veterans Memorial Park, 9710 Calumet Ave.
One new bench is much smaller in size and stands out among the rest, however. A plaque inscribed on the seat back reads: “To honor all children whose lives have been impacted by war.” The child-sized seat was recently donated by Gerry and Marlene Rothenberg, of Gary.
The 6.5-acre memorial has become a tourist attraction and commemorates the sacrifices and achievements of veterans of major military conflicts that shaped the 20th century. The idea was developed in the late 1990s when a group of local veterans came together to talk about creating a place that honors the nation’s war heroes. The final design encompasses three main goals: to remember, to educate and to challenge.
“When we first visited in 2011, we were incredibly moved by the memorial,” Marlene Rothenberg said. “The displays are about a parent, family member, neighbor or friend who was a soldier – a loved one who didn’t come back from the war.
"One of the goals of the memorial is to remember. We feel it’s our responsibility to pass along the stories about the people – family members - who are no longer with us,” she added.
“We may have been more in tune with the idea of remembering and providing a special place just for children because some 25 years ago we lost a child, Julie Elaine Rothenberg,” she said.
“Our nine grandchildren know about her through the stories we have told them. Part of your family may be gone, but they can never be erased from your heart or your memories,” she said. “This bench serves as a lasting memory.”
A separate memorial for each conflict of the 20th century, created from bronze, granite and actual war memorabilia, is set amidst landscapes that depict the terrains of the countries in which the conflicts took place. In the Viet Nam venue, for example, a little boy in bronze carries with him precious remnants - his father's uniform and dog tags.
The park is open daily dawn to dusk. Admission is free. To learn more, visit www.CommunityVeteransMemorial.org.