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Peoria veterans honored with war memorial dedication ceremony

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A small crowd gathered at Peoria County Courthouse Plaza Saturday to honor all local veterans with a memorial.

"A Final Salute" featured a granite wall with the names of 233 Peorian veterans who died in combat while serving the United States since World War II.

Two statues that resemble soldiers returning to their field base sit behind the wall.

The wall sheds light on all of the U.S. wars and conflicts over the past 160 years.

A part of the wall also included the unveiling of "Lady Liberty", a tribute to one of the first female helicopter pilots in the military and the growing number of women in combat flight positions during the 1990s.

Among the first handful of U.S. Army women to fly combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom, keynote speaker Senator Tammy Duckworth spoke about the importance of diversity and inclusion in the military.

"When I was going through flight school, the flight instructor said to me, 'Can you get more women to apply? Because women often times make better, natural pilots but they don't apply.' So I want little girls who come up to see just as little boys do and say I want to be a soldier one day. I want little girls to say I want to be a helicopter pilot."

As Americans celebrate the country's 245th year of independence, state leaders want Americans to remember those who served and fought.

"Freedom is not free," said Congressman Darin Lahood. "There's a cost associated with our freedom and what we enjoy in this country and we live in the greatest country in the world. To be here today to unveil the memorial honoring those veterans is important for our country."

Organizers said "A Final Salute" is the third and final piece of the Courthouse Plaza's war memorial.

Darnysha Mitchell

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