A blocklong vets memorial may end up being the largest of its kind in the Northwest.

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SUNNYSIDE, Yakima County — If patriotic monuments were a contest, Sunnyside might just pull out an upset.

When finished, the city’s blocklong Jerry Taylor Veterans Plaza may arguably be the largest veterans memorial in the Northwest, according to organizers.

“It gives me bragging rights when I travel,” said Mayor Jim Restucci, himself an Army and Washington Army National Guard veteran.

The plaza, named for a World War II veteran and 1970s Sunnyside mayor known for patriotic civic projects, will have 42 engraved slabs of granite — each about 8 feet tall — plus thousands of paving blocks, several metal eagle statues and a larger-than-life silhouette cutout of a soldier, designed to symbolize the passing of a veteran into eternity.

The whole project stretches an entire block just south of City Hall, comprising the median of Ninth Street, and will easily top $1 million in construction costs.

Its size and cost rivals the World War II monument in Salem, Ore., which was dedicated last year after a statewide funding effort.

In Sunnyside, a farming town of about 16,000 residents, the project was undertaken by just two local veterans groups.

And it’s not the only one. A second, smaller veterans memorial north of town at the Lower Valley Memorial Gardens cemetery ran out of room.

“In the Northwest, there’s not a town the size of Sunnyside that has anything near the installation of veterans memorials,” said Jon Reece, vice president and general manager of Quiring Monuments, the Seattle granite firm that has built hundreds of memorials in its 50-year history.

“With 42 large panels like they have, I would say it’s definitely one of the largest veterans memorials in the Northwest,” said Joey Fuerstenberg of Vancouver, Wash., the president of the Pacific Northwest Monument Builders Association.

The man behind it all, Vietnam veteran Greg Schlieve, wants the downtown plaza to rival the military memorials in Washington, D.C.

“We’re just thinking this will give us an identity,” he said,

Schlieve, who grew up in Sunnyside, spent 15 months in Vietnam, returning in 1970 to a nation of critics and protests.

In 1990, Schlieve joined the VFW and poured himself into veterans activities. He has helped rebuild the membership and organized finances of two VFW posts, distributed Gold Star certificates to mothers of military service members killed in action, organized patriotic holiday ceremonies and served on the color guards at hundreds of military funerals.

He credits the veterans projects with helping him work through post-traumatic stress disorder from Vietnam.

“It’s a continuous healing process,” he said.

Under Schlieve’s direction, the American Legion first commissioned two granite slabs, one dedicated to the 9/11 attacks.

The recession in 2008 dampened fundraising for several years, but momentum eventually surged again.

In 2012, a private donation from Johnson Foods and contributions from Home Depot led the way to $20,000 worth of brick paving blocks and eagle statues. The city contributed by laying recycled gravel as the base for the pavers, while the Legion began selling plaques on gray granite walls at $300 each to honor the veteran of their choice. In 2013, state Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, helped the group secure a $65,000 grant to help pay for curbing, asphalt work and a sidewalk.

By 2014, the groundwork was completed and the Legion dedicated two black walls, each one bearing a military-theme poem, at the south end of the block.

“Everything happened so rapidly,” Schlieve said. “People started believing.”