Higgins Memorial ready for the future

Published: Jun. 2, 2020 at 10:05 AM CDT
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A humbling military memorial in Columbus has been renovated.

It continues to welcome guests and remind us all of the sacrifice of veterans.

Andrew Jackson Higgins was born and raised in Columbus. He lived in the town til the age of 10. "He grew up, went to high school at Creighton Prep, and then from there he ended up in New Orleans, Louisiana," Higgins Memorial Foundation board member Dennis Hirschbrunner said. In New Orleans, Higgins got involved in the flat-bottom boat business. "When the Navy in at the outbreak of World War II, they were looking for a landing craft to be able to land troops, other than at a harbor," Hirschbrunner said. "(Higgins) designed the landing craft that you see behind me, and built over 20,000 of them for the military." President Eisenhower later said, Higgins helped win the war with his invention. "Because it allowed the Allies to land on open beaches," Hirschbrunner said.

The memorial was created by a high school teacher named Jerry Meyer, and several high school classes at Columbus High School

"They raised money, they sold bricks," Hirschbrunner said. "If you look around the memorial, you'll find bricks with people's names, and a lot of the bricks will be relatives that served in the military." The bronze sculptures that appear to come out of the replica of the Higgins boat are life-like. "The bronzes were done by Fred Hoppe, who is a renowned sculptor. He has sculptures all over the world.

They are unique in that each solider represents a different war," Hirschbrunner said.

The Higgins Memorial is looking good as new, thanks to renovations. "The Platte County Visitors Bureau gave us a grant of $30,000 to renew the facility," Hirschbrunner said. "The boat had started to rust, so we elevated the boat, power washed it, sanded it and put a barrier under neath it." The memorial is so moving, that a replica of it now stands on Utah Beach. Congressman Jeff Fortenberry, along with many local businesses worked to get the replica to France. "We were fortunate to get that all done and shipped to Normandy in time for the 2015 D-Day celebration," Hirschbrunner said.

The memorial pays respect to other events in our nation's history. "This was the first phase, the Andrew Jackson Higgins Boat. The second phase was the freedom eagle, and that was built to recognize the 9/11 victims and survivors. The steel that you see there is from the World Trade Center, we were able to secure that. The eagle is another Fred Hoppe sculpture," Hirschbrunner said.

"The third phase is the recognition of the Gulf War and all the wars since that time. The reliance on the reserves and the National Guard has increased tremendously. So we wanted to recognize the Guard and Reserves."

Board members who oversee this memorial say they hope to keep it in top condition for many years to come. "This really is a fantastic facility, we are working very hard to maintain it at a high level," Hirschbrunner said. "The purpose of this memorial is to recognize all of the people who have served in the military, and this is a great way to show that respect and that honor."