Ralph Lamberson, chairman of the event and a member of the Wheaton Historical Society board of directors, explained the flagpole on the lawn outside the museum belonged to the Wheaton Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #5219. The Post had given the flagpole to be part of a veterans memorial being developed by the museum.
Nine members of the VFW Post remain. Of those, five were present for the dedication.
Betty Higgs Lamberson, museum volunteer and historical society member, read the names of the 52 charter members who belonged to the VFW Post in December 1945. She read the names of 102 veterans who later joined the post and 42 veterans whose names are inscribed on memorial bricks placed in the courtyard between the caboose and the museum who were not post members.
Following a moment of silence in memory of those who served in the Armed Forces, Ralph Lamberson introduced Col. James Cantrell, a 1957 Wheaton High School graduate. Cantrell retired from the military in 1989, having served as administrator at the Fort Leonard Wood Hospital. He also retired in 2001 as administrator of St. John's Hospital in Springfield. He had also served as president of the Wilson's Creek Battlefield Association.
Cantrell said the flagpole and the names read represented sacrifices made for the nation, To those who view such displays as a representation or glorification of war, Cantrell cited philosopher John Stuart Mill, who said, "The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."
"The years served by those named represent the fact that freedom is not free," Cantrell said. "The youth who see these names are the key to continued freedom. They get the vision from older veterans. I got that. I felt it when I entered the VFW hall. I knew special people met there. As a direct result, I got the vision to defend freedom from them. I saw it as my duty."
"We can't know the influence this memorial will have," Cantrell said. "I'd like to think those who see it will feel the spirit of whose names are here."
Cantrell closed with a quote credited to British writer George Orwell: "We sleep well only because rough men stand ready to do violence on our behalf."
Flags for the occasion were provided by the National Guard unit from Monett. An additional feature included a demonstration by cadets from the Junior ROTC program at Willard High School.