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Memorial honoring war hero Kasler, family becomes reality

November 4, 2018 GMT

MOMENCE — Seth Burkey was determined to get a memorial to the late Air Force Col. James H. Kasler built by Veterans Day.

That determination along with donations of money, work and materials and the centerpiece bronze statute of a 25-foot American Bald Eagle has made it a reality.

The memorial to Kasler and his family near their former home will be celebrated at 3 p.m. Nov. 10.

Burkey said the Nov. 10 date was selected so as not to conflict with Veterans Day events planned for Nov. 11.

“Everything looks awesome. It has all come together,” Burkey told the Daily journal in a phone interview on Thursday.

The cost of the memorial was $25,000.

Burkey started a funding campaign eight months ago.

The ceremony will feature a color guard from the Olivet Nazarene University ROTC program, and members of the school’s marching band will perform the National Anthem.

Marine Cpl. Chad Watson, a Purple Heart recipient, will give a short speech. Watson, of Frankfort, was injured while serving in Afghanistan. He is medically retired from the Corps.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Burkey said small American flags will be handed out to guests. Burkey said guests will be asked to place the flags around the base of the memorial for members of their families who serve or have served in the Armed Forces.

On the base is a photo of Kasler from his days as an Air Force pilot. Kasler flew missions in World War II, the Korean Conflict and Vietnam War. He was shot down and captured in Vietnam, where he was held captive from Aug. 8, 1966 until March 4, 1973.

In 2015, Seth Burkey and his wife Mary bought the home built by Kasler and his wife Martha located on the South Shore Golf Course. Kasler passed away at the age of 87 in April 2014, a few years after he sold South Shore Golf Club, which he ran for more than 20 years.

Burkey talked about a treasure trove of Kasler items found in the crawl space by the prior owners.

“The couple we purchased the home from relayed the message that Martha had the items she wanted, and so many other items she had were sent to museums,” Burkey said in a March 2018 interview.

Burkey became interested in the war hero after reading Kasler’s book, “Tempered Steel.”

Some of the Kasler items made their way into the house near the front entrance. It is known as “Kasler’s Corner.”