In 2016, a monument honoring both Union and Confederate Civil War veterans was erected in Wichita’s Veterans Memorial Park.
The Reconciliation Memorial replaced a Confederate flag that was taken down the year before following a deadly shooting at an African Methodist Episcopal church in South Carolina.
“I’m assuming that was a compromise on behalf of those who were opposed to the flag,” said City Council member Brandon Johnson, “and then those who were supportive of the flag and the Confederacy.”
Johnson — who was elected to the council in 2017 — was part of the group that pushed the Wichita Park Board to remove the flag, which had been flown at the U.S. Bicentennial Flag Pavilion since 1976.
The new monument was approved during the same meeting.
Two sides of the obelisk honor all Union and Confederate veterans in “the war between the states.” Another side bears the inscription “honoring Confederate dead” at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.:
“Not for fame or reward/Not for place or rank/Not lured by ambition/ or goaded by necessity /But in simple/obedience to duty/as these men understood it.”
“The intent of this memorial is to bring folks together and reconcile their differences,” minutes from the Park Board’s Nov. 9, 2015, meeting read.
Now, as Confederate memorials are taken down in cities across the country, the monument could face new scrutiny. Johnson said he doesn’t agree with the monument being a part of Veterans Memorial Park, but he said any effort to remove the monument now would have to come from the public — not city leaders.
“Last time, it was citizen-led, not elected-led,” he said. “Citizens really pushed to remove the Confederate flag. … I would say if citizens do the same now and really push for probably removing that, then it would probably go back to the Park Board.”
The city owns Veterans Memorial Park, but it’s managed by a nonprofit board. KMUW has reached out to the board but has not yet received a response.
There’s been some discussion on social media about the monument, but “at this point I haven’t been notified of any official actions for that,” Johnson said.
“I think people would be rightfully upset by it and rightfully energized to try to push to remove it,” he said. “Kansas was not a confederate state.”