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City of Jackson salutes military veterans

Photo by Derrick Norris///
This aerial photo was taken Saturday over the Jackson Veterans Memorial Park, the day of the dedication ceremony, from a helicopter piloted by Johnny Carter.

Photo by Derrick Norris/// This aerial photo was taken Saturday over the Jackson Veterans Memorial Park, the day of the dedication ceremony, from a helicopter piloted by Johnny Carter.

— The City of Jackson unveiled its new Veterans Memorial Park to the public on Saturday, on a crisp and clear Veterans Day weekend, showing off what officials and residents hope will be a centerpiece for the city that honors those who have served, and inspires pride in the citizenry.

Hundreds gathered at the triangular park at the intersection of Third Street and Dempsey Avenue. The lot was once a grass patch surrounded by hedges, but now stands as a carefully crafted park, featuring a 44-foot wall engraved with the names of Butts County’s war dead, two long granite panels honoring local veterans, and an eternal flame that keeps their memories alive.

Jackson Mayor-elect Wayne Phillips, who led the city steering committee on the park, called the dedication ceremony one of the most solemn events in the city he can recall.

“I was very humbled just to be a part of it,” he said. “It was just a great, moving experience to everyone that was there.”

He said he was proud of the work that city employees have put into the park. The crew members’ names have been added to a plaque dedicating the park. The city acquired the land through a donation from the Settle family in the fall of 2010, and has since been planning and constructing the park with the goal of a Veterans Day opening.

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Jackson Mayor-elect Wayne Phillips (left), who was the chairman of the steering committee for the Veterans Memorial Park, greets Air Force veteran James H. Power at the park’s dedication.

Sammy Robinson, of Tallapoosa, who designed the park for the city and has been involved in several similar projects, said he was proud to be part of Jackson’s park.

“It’s unreal to see the people that will come to some of these” park openings, he said. “These people right here in Jackson should be proud of the leadership they have here.”

The dedication ceremony was followed by a Veterans Day program featuring remarks by military officials -- including Georgia Defense Force Commander Brig. Gen. Jerry Bradford -- and a flyby by the Army Aviation Heritage Foundation, based in Hampton.

Eddie Dumas, who has been organizing the program for years and was also on the park committee, said he was proud of what the program means to veterans. “This has been the best program we have had to date,” he said. “The veterans deserve to get some recognition ... and I’m delighted that we could deliver.”

“If I died, I wanted to die a soldier of these United States of America,” said the Rev. Asa Thurman, whose remarks closed out the event. “Simply because I didn’t die, doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have died.”

Earlier this year, the city began selling, at cost, 12-inch by 12-inch markers to be carved into two slanted granite slabs that line the east and west sides of the park. Phillips said there is space for more than 800 carvings, and that up until the October deadline, the city had sold 348 for unveiling this year.

Residents have ordered more to be carved in the future, Phillips said, and unveilings of the names will be planned around each Veterans Day in years to come.

James H. Power, an Air Force veteran and a 1955 graduate of Jackson High School, was on hand Saturday to see his name unveiled as part of the park.

“People don’t realize the sacrifice of families” of those who serve, he said. He said the park was a “fantastic” way to pay tribute to soldiers.

“I visualized how it would be, but not quite as elaborate as it is,” he said.