Veterans monument denied courthouse lawn

Written on 11/25/2023
Patrick Munsey

The Howard County Courthouse lawn has become a showcase of patriotic monuments in recent years, but the latest plan to honor the first female U.S. Marine has been turned away.

A monument recognizing Howard County native Opha Mae Johnson as the first female to join the U.S. Marine Corps has been in the works for more than a year. It’s visionary, Jerry Paul, secured the commitment of the Howard County Board of Commissioners to display the monument and to help underwrite its cost.

But Howard County Veterans Memorial Corp. representative Blake Dahl approached the board of commissioners on Nov. 20 to discuss a sudden change of heart on the county’s side.

“I think you guys probably heard from the security committee at the courthouse that they went ahead and nixed the monument,” said Dahl.

“I would change the verbiage,” responded Commissioner Jeff Lipinski. “That’s not our intent. They were clear it was a security issue. But we are 100 percent for the project, just in a different location.”

The monument, which would have consisted of tall, headstone-like displays, was considered a bad fit for the west side of the courthouse, where inmates are loaded and unloaded for their court appearances. Dahl, a practicing attorney, conceded the corporation’s push to have another display on the courthouse lawn.

“No matter what, our goal here is honor over Opha Mae Johnson,” said Dahl. “We’d like to maybe get your assistance in finding another place here in town. I just want to say thank you all for your patience and your commitment.”

The commissioners agreed to aid in locating a home for the proposed monument and reiterated their support for the monument.