Keller, a Vietnam War veteran who served in the U.S. Army in Thailand, always wanted to build a memorial at his property, at the corner of Edmonds and Billings roads.
Two years ago, he started by installing a flagpole at the home he shares with his wife of 20 years, Sandy. A neighbor helped him dig a trench, and Keller built the base of the memorial, using bricks from an old Bellevue school building. He installed 12 engraved stones, one for each of the nation’s wars.
Since then, he and his wife have added to the memorial, piece by piece. They found replica military helmets in their travels, and George ordered replica rifles for eight of the 12 wars memorialized. He also added a plaque engraved with a prayer by Eleanor Roosevelt, “Wartime Prayer.”
The prayer hits on this: Somewhere out there, a soldier died for you today. For the Kellers, the memorial is like the pictures of Jesus or the crucifixes that people keep in their homes, representing their beliefs. “It’s like the religious artifact in your home,” Keller said. “Except in this case, it’s in my side yard.”
When he built the memorial, he didn’t intend to attract unusual traffic. “More and more people are stopping by, just word of mouth,” Keller said. “People just riding by, taking this little back road to wherever they go.” He tries to talk to each visitor, pointing out the features on the plaques — the number of soldiers killed and wounded in wars. Every time, people are amazed. “Sometimes I think I can be the only person who feels something about something,” he said. “And I found out, there’s all kinds of people that feel like you, that think like you. “No one walks away with anything but good in their heart after they see it,” he said. Keller said he plans to keep adding to the memorial as he’s inspired.
He found a bald eagle statue at Cracker Barrel, and a bugle in a thrift shop. The next step: Replace the flagpole downed by a tornado this past summer. Interestingly, while the storm uprooted the flagpole, it left the helmets untouched — they remained in their places, on top of the rifles. “Not one helmet was blown off,” George said. “And the service flags weathered the storm.”