An unassuming park in the heart of Kellerberrin is being transformed into a tribute to the hundreds of men and women from the Central Wheatbelt who served in World War II, with a special section for those from the 2/28th Battalion. The first 60 of up to 300 life-sized soldiers— carefully crafted from steel and featuring their name, rank and service number — have been installed at the park in time for Remembrance Day. Spearheading the project is Richard Marek, who has called Kellerberrin home for the past 13 years. A former navy man of 46 years, he said he was inspired by the stories he had heard while spending time at the Kellerberrin Men’s Shed — with many members having family members who served. The park was gifted to Mr Marek’s project last year, and the creation of the soldiers has so far been funded out of his own pocket and through the town’s Containers for Change Scheme. Mr Marek said his research revealed 85 of the 2/28 Battalion soldiers came from the Kellerberrin area – including surrounding towns such as Meckering and Bruce Rock. “I am making a park that will honour these people, along with locals that fought in different arenas of the war,” he said. “So many people have been wandering through the park already, even though it is not finished. “The response has been fantastic... the families of the soldiers are so appreciative.” The park includes two sections, one for locals who may have served in other areas of the Australian Defence Force and a parade ground for those that served in the 2/28 Battalion. The 2/28th infantry Battalion had a distinguished history in World War II, after being raised in Melville in July 1940 as part of the 24th Aust Infantry Brigade 9th Infantry Division. It moved to Northam in September to undergo training, with hundreds of men and women enlisted from towns across the Central Wheatbelt. The Battalion left WA for Egypt in January 1941 and fired the first shots in the Battle of Tobruk in Libya before suffering a major reverse at El Alamein, Egypt in July, 1942. Nearly 500 members were captured at Ruin Ridge. Following the end of the war and Japan’s surrender, the ranks of the 2/28th thinned, as men were discharged, transferred, or volunteered for the occupation force for Japan. Survivors returned to Australia in January 1946, where the 2/28th was disbanded. The project started in April last year, with local school children planting about 400 trees and shrubs in the park a few months later before work started to craft the steel soldiers. The school children visited the park on Monday, November 6, to entwine a red poppy in each of the soldiers’ carved-out inscriptions ahead of Remembrance Day. Mr Marek’s project has attracted the interest and support of the 2/28 Battalion and 24th Anti Tank Company Association, with the group’s president Jim Wade and patron Duncan Warren travelling to see the statues on Friday, November 3. Mr Wade – whose father was a member of the Battalion and has been honoured with a statue - said it was the one of the first tributes to the Battalion outside of Kings Park. “Speaking for myself, walking through the park… I think it will help people feel connected with those that served, the statues are life-size,” he said. “Originally this was a wholly-West Australian Battalion… so it has am important place in WA history.” Mr Warren said Mr Marek had used the group as a sounding board to fact-check and fine-tune the project, which was a “fantastic way to commemorate those from the district”. “It has really evolved to honour all of those from this area who enlisted and served overseas,” he said. Mr Marek is now on the hunt for corporate sponsorship to build a pergola with a barbecue area, and footpaths, and to finish installing the soldiers.