FENTON, Mo. – Along the banks
of the Meramec River, tucked away in a quiet corner of Fenton Park stands a solemn,
bronze statue of a life-size pair of a soldier’s boots, rifle and helmet. The
sculpture, referred to as a ‘Soldier’s Cross,’ has a home in the park thanks to
the efforts of Gravois Trail Eagle Scout Ray Wilson. The Fallen Soldiers
Memorial, designed to honor all American soldiers who have given their lives to
serve their country, took almost three years to complete and helped earn Wilson
the 2012 Missouri Eagle Scout of the Year award.
American Legion Post 400, Eagle Scout of the Year encompasses more than just
Boy Scouting. To qualify, an individual must have demonstrated practical
citizenship in church, school, Scouting and community. Wilson, one of 100
nominees vying for the distinction, has also logged more than 1,000 hours of
community service through various projects in addition to his work with the Fallen
Five years ago,
when Wilson was just 12 years old and attending junior high, he was sitting at
home when the idea first struck him.
“I was watching TV
one day and I saw a commercial about some type of memorial for veterans,”
Wilson said. “I had seen the battlefield cross before and I thought Fenton Park
would be a perfect spot for the Fallen Soldiers Memorial. I thought this would
be a good Eagle project so I proposed the project to the Board of Alderman.”
Once he received
the initial approval from the board, the Scout from Troop 121 was put in
contact with a city architect. Together the two mapped out a plan for how the
memorial would look and where it would go, but ultimately it was Wilson who got
to make the final decision. In Fenton Park stands a spectacular granite and
stone memorial, appropriately called the Heroes Memorial, dedicated to the
victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Just behind this sleek structure
with its twin towers is where Wilson planned to put the Fallen Soldiers
Thus began a
lengthy process in which Wilson had to go about raising funds for the memorial.
He needed money to purchase the statue, the granite base, the surrounding
sidewalk and then the labor needed to perform the installation and work.
“I went to local
businesses and also did fundraisers,” said Wilson, whose story ran in
publications such as USA Today, Chicago Tribune and St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “There
was also a story that ran on the news and I received donations from people that
way but most (of the funds) came from business owners.
“It was hard at
first. When I started the project, the economy was really down so that hurt but
when I went out to ask business owners for funds, many were very generous.”
necessary monies were secured, as well as volunteered manpower to perform some
of the work, a sum of around $25,000, Wilson presented his plan in front of the
board for final approval. This time however, he was met with skepticism. The
setback didn’t deter Wilson as he stood his ground while also benefitting from American
Legion Post 400, which voiced its support of the project. Finally, Wilson won
the consent to finish his memorial.
three years of hard work and attention, the Fallen Soldiers Memorial was
dedicated on May 31, 2010. Since then, his younger brother, Shawn, has enhanced
the space with two granite benches, two granite pillars and two bronze plaques.
enjoys playing sports as well as the trombone, enjoys spending time outdoors
and often visits Fenton City Park on a weekly basis where he proudly views the
memorial he helped put in place.