BY JASON KOTOWSKI, Californian staff writer email@example.com
About a month and $21,000 is all that separates the unveiling of the Wall of Valor at the Kern Veterans Memorial at Truxtun Avenue and S Street.
The four-year project -- which will list the roughly 1,000 men and women from Kern County killed in action or in support of combat operations from World War I to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars -- is nearly at an end. Bakersfield High School teacher Ken Hooper, whose class has compiled the names of the war dead, is anxious to complete the work.
"I'm still going full steam," Hooper said Tuesday of his thoughts about the May 28 unveiling. "I'm not nervous, I'm just anxious to get it done. I don't want to make any mistakes."
Hooper's class met Friday to proofread the names. Mistakes are being corrected and, in a couple of days, the final list will be sent to be etched on glass panels.
There will be a total of eight glass panels, with room at the bottom of the eighth one for other names to be added, Hooper said.
He said his class has received a tremendous amount of help from the community in compiling the names. Certain individuals have spent hundreds of hours researching and providing information, and the class wouldn't have known about some killed veterans if family members hadn't contacted them.
Then there are those who were listed as dead by one source, but later listed as missing in action or wounded in action by other sources.
For example, a World War II veteran who served in the U.S. Navy was listed as having been killed during the war, but the class later found a tribute posted by the man's daughter saying he had been gravely wounded in World War II but survived and went on to live a full life, dying in 1988.
The class has sorted through numerous similar situations. Even Friday, with only hours before Spring Break, the students devoted hours of their time to proofreading, Hooper said.
Fundraising efforts are also continuing as the May 28 date draws near. Don Clark, fundraising coordinator, said $468,920 has been raised. A total of $500,000 is needed.
Late Tuesday, Clark reported a new donation. He said the Shafter City Council had voted to provide $10,000 toward the memorial.
Clark said the community's support has been overwhelming.
"It's been a countywide effort from young to old," he said.
Leon Thomas, president of the Kern Veterans Memorial Foundation, said he hopes contributions will continue to come in over the next month so they'll be able to completely pay for the project when it's finished. He said he's personally ecstatic by the county's response.
"I'm so pleased that we're finally getting it done and I'm so happy that once the citizens of Kern County came to realize we needed to honor these patriots that they came through," Thomas said.
To donate, go to www.kernvets.org.