The grand opening of the new Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1127 building Saturday was filled with both excitement and somber.
"It's like his dream finally came to life," Ann Walden, widow of late Clay County Veterans Service Officer Les Walden, told The Brazil Times. "Les truly felt the veterans of Clay County needed and deserved this, and in the past few months, I learned why he fought so hard to make this happen."
Les, who had spearheaded the effort for the new building, 303 S. Depot St., Brazil, passed away Dec. 4, 2008, before he was able to see his efforts come to fruition.
"He was the backbone of this project and I'm sure if he was here right now, he would be smiling," current Veterans Service Officer Mike Holland said during the ceremony. "This is the end result of all the hard work, not just from Les, but all the current and past officers."
Holland informed those in attendance an empty chair near the podium was dedicated in honor of Les.
Ann's older brother Will Mathews elaborated on the impact his brother-in-law left on the community.
"Les was a stranger to no one and he always wanted to make a better place to live," Mathews said. "The sunny weather is appropriate for the event because Les really made a significant impact when he was here."
Many members of the Walden family were in attendance including the newest addition, Les's granddaughter Sydney Rene Webb, who was recently born on his birthday, April 14.
VFW District Commander Dave Havely commented on the state of the buildings in the county.
"It is really impressive to have two new VFW posts in Clay County," he said in reference to the new building in Clay City, which was also recently completed. "Having the windows in this post makes everything brighter and it is a tribute to all the people who made this a reality. I hope it lasts at least 50 years."
State Representative Nancy Michael (Dist. 44) spoke about the need to have a place to support soldiers returning from foreign wars.
"It is critically important for soldiers and their families to have this support system back home," she said. "It took 20 years of blood, sweat and tears to open this building and I can really feel the commitment that went into it. But you didn't just build a building, you built a home for them to come and share common experiences."
Michael presented a state flag of Indiana to Post Commander Jim Cassidy to help commemorate the opening.
A lucky boy and girl also each were given a 20-inch bicycle during the grand opening. Damon Sanders won the boys' bike, and the girls' bike was won by Katlyn Galloway, who then donated it to McKayla Batchelor.
While the event was grand in stature, one could not help but remember the work Les did to make it happen.
"The two main things Les fought for were programs for the children and the veterans," Ann told The Brazil Times. "It is a bittersweet day, but I'm glad things worked out the way he wanted and it feels like he is here with us and his new granddaughter."