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At the Jan. 28 meeting of the Roxboro Kiwanis Club at La Piazza Restaurant in Uptown Roxboro, Doug Robinson spoke about the Veterans Park adjacent to the County Office Building on Morgan Street. It is a project of the Person County Veterans Council, which was formed in 2013 as a 501(c)(3) organization in support of various local veterans groups.
The focus of the park is to honor and commemorate local veterans. Robinson referenced the disrespect of veterans that was prevalent in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. He asserted that this did not turn around until the end of the first Gulf War in 1993-94. He noted that club member Reggie Horton has attended some veterans reunions and saw various parks in other locations around the country, as a result of which he brought the idea back to Person County.
The objective of the project is to provide a dedicated area for memorial services, to foster relationships among veterans and the community and to provide a place for other nonprofit activities. In designing the park, Robinson observed that it was necessary to approach it from the perspective of the veteran. It is set back from the street at the end of a walkway representing the road traveled after leaving home. The two walls are representative of the gate at a military training facility. Next, is a quadrangle representing the parade field of a military base.
On the back wall are the flags of the five uniformed services. There is a stone for each of the military conflicts in American history. Robinson recommends this as a good history lesson for students. Each stone has a number, tying into a correspondingly numbered map showing where each of the conflicts occurred. There are also four benches for meditation.
There is a battlefield cross in the midst of the facility, consisting of boots, a rifle and a helmet. After completion of the park, Robinson indicated that someone anonymously hung a set of dog tags on the rifle. A Piedmont Community College class built a tabletop model of the park which was used to describe the project to various groups, some of whom were being solicited for support. The county donated the land and the city contributed monetarily to the construction cost.
The park was opened 14 months after these initial steps. Robinson informed that there were numerous high school class reunion organizations that donated, all of whom are recognized on a donor stone at the park. The target cost was $37,000 and it actually cost $41,000, plus $4,000 in additional improvements thereafter. The county maintenance department takes care of the landscaping and the Veterans Council must maintain the facility itself. It has $4,000 in reserve for this purpose now. There is also a veterans honor stone, costing $175 per name for an inscription either in memory or in honor of a veteran. Future plans include developing another walkway at the back of the site for additional honor stones. A 9/11 memorial is also planned, as well as one for the names of all Person County veterans who have died in conflicts.
Robinson noted that this is a source of pride for the entire county and is now entirely privately maintained. There are no public appropriations involved.