Boone County Commission votes to relocate Desert Storm memorial

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COLUMBIA - Following more than a year of public debate, the Boone County Commission unanimously decided Tuesday to replace and relocate the Desert Storm Memorial at the Boone County Courthouse.

The memorial features an ichthus, better known as the 'Jesus Fish,' at the base, which has been covered while the county debated what to do with the memorial.

The commissioners said they will be moving the current memorial to the Columbia Cemetery off Broadway and then intend on building a new monument at the courthouse without the ichthus.

Most of the Boone County residents who showed up to the meeting said they were deeply upset by the commission's decision and said the commissioners were unwilling to listen to them.

"You can't put on TV what I think," said Hugh Farnen, a father of of one of the fallen service members listed on the memorial. "We tried to meet them partway and they're absolutely refusing to do anything  except what they want and what a very small majority wants."

The commission said it made its decision based on the legal opinion of Columbia attorney Dan Simon, who said the ichthus violated state and constitutional law. 

"The maintenance of a religious icon on county property is a violation of the Missouri constitution," said county commissioner Daniel Atwill. "It's not a law that happened recently, it's been that way since the monument was first established in 1992 and shouldn't have been put up."

Farnen said he didn't understand why the commission didn't wish to compromise with the public by leaving the ichthus covered.

"There is absolutely no reason whatsoever for them to move the memorial once we agreed to leave it covered," Farnen said. "I don't like that, but they wouldn't agree to it."

Atwill said the commission wanted to respect the families of the fallen servicemen on the memorial and publics feelings, but couldn't 'base the decision on emotions.'

"I much regret the heartache this has caused the families of the two deceased military personnel that are listed on the monument," Atwill said. "I hope that people will agree that we can include the two names on a new monument that is essentially the same, but it won't have the religious icon."