BRANSON, Mo. — The mayor in Branson, Missouri, declared July 9 as Ben Kinel Day. Kinel was a former marine best known for creating Veteran’s Memorial Garden.
Kinel served in the United States Marine Corps. Even though he never saw the field of battle, he has left a legacy and made fellow veterans proud.
“Hey, he’s a veteran, and just because you make a right instead of a left off the bus, you’re still one of us,” said Dub White, president of the Veterans and Military Coalition of the Ozarks.
White joined Branson’s mayor, Larry Milton, Missouri Senator Mike Moon, and Congressman Billy Long’s Office to honor Sgt. Kinel for founding and preserving the Veteran’s Memorial Garden.
Jack Herschend, the co-founder of Silver Dollar City, said Kinel talked with him about funding this project 13 years ago. Herschend spoke at the event and quoted lines from the novel “Shepherd of the Hills.”
“In this world, there are but few extraordinary people,” said Herschend. “He was describing our founders of what is now called Ozarks Mountain Country. Fast forward 100 years and Kinel was one of those extraordinary people.”
Kinel inspired veterans like Bill Kid, a commander of the American Legion Post 220.
“He was well known in the community, and I love this garden,” said Kid. “Me and my wife moved out here three and a half years ago, and the first thing we came into was right in here and we saw the gardens, and we thought, ‘wow, this is awesome.'”
Though Kinel passed away on July 6, 2021, his legacy will continue for years to come.
“When we have an activity, we’re gonna put up Ben’s pictures in the garden and have those there just to remind people about it, a talking point,” said White. “This is what he did. This is what it was. You know, make a donation. Give us time too. Come up and get your fingernails dirty as they said today.”
The new administrator of the garden, Jana Evans, said she knows she has big shoes to fill.