By Alan Hovorka, Stevens Point Journal
STEVENS POINT - Local veterans and officials gathered on Veterans Day to honor those who serve and have served in the airborne forces by rededicating the Clark Street Bridge.
The bridge crossing the Wisconsin River on the city's west side, which was once part of U.S. 10, was dedicated in 1994 by the state but lost that dedication when the highway was rerouted away from Clark Street, Stevens Point Mayor Mike Wiza said. Wiza and local veterans gathered Monday to rededicate the bridge as Airborne Force Memorial Bridge during a ceremony hosted by Mid-State Technical College.
Wiza said he learned the bridge lost its designation during conversations with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
"Today being Veterans Day was the perfect opportunity to rededicate the bridge to the airborne forces," Wiza said.
The idea for the rededication was borne out of a request from the city to do a Veterans Crosswalk, Portage County Veterans Service Director Michael Clements said.
Stevens Point installed a rainbow crosswalk dedicated to members of the LGBTQ community earlier this fall, which drew pushback from some city residents and members of the city council. The crosswalk, located on Reserve Street on the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point campus, was vandalized within days of installation when a truck did a burnout on it, prompting city crews to repaint it.
Stevens Point City Council Member Jeremy Slowinski first floated the idea of the Veterans Crosswalk in response to the Pride Crosswalk. Slowinski said his formal request morphed into the bridge dedication and that Wiza notified him of it last week.
Clements said in speaking with local veterans organizations the consensus was to not do a red, white and blue crosswalk because it would mean people would drive over the country's colors. Instead, he and the mayor sought an alternative and settled on dedicating the bridge.
The rededicated bridge is bordered by Admiral Albert W. Grant Park on the south side of Clark Street and the Disabled American Veterans Bell on the north side of the street.
The Monday morning ceremony began at Mid-State Technical College's Stevens Point campus where Disabled American Veterans Chapter 30 led the ceremony and State Rep. Katrina Shankland was the keynote speaker. American Legion Post 6 carried out the duty of honor guard and performed a rifle salute, and a member of the Air National Guard sounded taps.
Wiza then installed a sign along the bridge marking the rededication.
"Today is their day no matter what branch they serve in," Clements said.