Wearing a heart on their square
By JENN WIANT - jwiant@nwherald.com

WOODSTOCK – The Purple Heart medal that Jerry Havens received in 1968 was in a drawer for years.

“My wife finally made me put it on the wall in my bedroom,” the 57-year-old Woodstock resident said.

The Purple Heart is awarded to U.S. military veterans who were wounded or died in combat. Havens was wounded in An Hoa, Vietnam, while serving with the Marines.

“Over the years, I’ve gotten more conscious about what happened and why I got [the Purple Heart], and I think it should be out in the public,” Havens said.

The Woodstock City Council unofficially approved Havens’ request this week to build a monument in the park on the Woodstock Square honoring recipients of the Purple Heart medal.

The council also will look at the placement of other monuments in the Square and consider establishing a memorial park in the city, Mayor Brian Sage said.

“I think you can assume ... that yes, we have concurrence that we are going to put this [Purple Heart monument] in the park in the Square,” Sager said to the city staff and audience at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

He directed staff to come up with a recommendation to the City Council about where the monument should be placed in the park, and whether existing monuments should be moved. The council also will discuss establishing a memorial park and a policy for what is placed in the park in the Square, he said.

The 5 feet by 4 feet rectangular red stone monument would be the first Purple Heart memorial in McHenry County, Havens said. At a cost of $6,250, Havens will need help paying for it, and planned to ask Woodstock businesses and individuals for donations.

To donate, call Havens at (815) 338-7737.

John Reyenga of Rockford, who brings his grandchildren to Woodstock to spend time on the Square, is a Vietnam War veteran and said a Purple Heart monument would be appropriate in the park.

“You don’t want to make it as big as the [gazebo], but something that people can walk up to and read about people ... is interesting,” he said as he sat on a bench in the park Thursday while waiting to meet a friend. “There’s a lot of room here for things like that.”

Jerry Stoerp of Woodstock was not concerned about the Square being overpopulated with monuments.

“I think it’s very tasteful right now,” he said. “I think another monument would be fine.”

Councilman Mike Turner liked that the memorial would honor a wide range of veterans.

“Rather than focusing on a specific campaign or conflict, it is broad-reaching and will continue to be broad-reaching in the future, and yet it focuses on the supreme sacrifice,” Turner said at the City Council meeting.

“ ... For the public, for children, for generations in the future, it does a very good job of bridging as far back as our history goes and all the way forward.”

Council members Richard Ahrens, Maureen Larson and Ralph Webster also said the monument should go in the park in the Square.

Councilman RB Thompson said he would prefer it in a corner of the park or in a separate memorial park.

“I really am in favor of a memorial park ... that might be more private,” Thompson said. “It would make it more solemn. The city square is moving in a different direction than the memorial-type environment that it used to be.”

Council member Julie Dillon was not at the meeting.

Havens proposed putting the monument on the northeast side of the park’s center, by the Civil War statue, but said anywhere in the park on the Square would be fine, as long as people could walk up to it and reflect on its meaning.

“This is not about me. This is for everyone. I’m doing it so people understand what a Purple Heart is,” he said.

“Kids especially, they should know.”