WELLSBURG - The Brooke County Veterans Memorial Park is nearly completed, and a dedication will be held, appropriately, on Veterans Day.
Howard Armstrong, president of the Brooke County Veterans Memorial Park Foundation, confirmed the dedication will be held at 2 p.m. on Nov. 11 at the park, which is beside the paddle boat pond at Brooke Hills Park.
Serving as key speaker will be Brooke County Prosecutor David B. Cross, whose father was killed in action during World War II. Many others have been slated to speak at the event, which also will include music.
The Brooke County Veterans Memorial Park is nearly completed, with a large bronze statue and granite pavers still to be added to the site at Brooke Hills Park. A dedication will be held at 2 p.m. on Nov. 11, Veterans Day. -- Warren Scott
The granite wall bearing the names of 186 local veterans who died while serving their country in military conflicts and 27 who were prisoners of war has been added to the site.
Also in place are a monument to Marine Lance Cpl. Michael J. Smith Jr., a Brooke County native who was killed in a skirmish in Iraq and inspired the park; another recognizing sponsors of $1,000 or more and members of the foundation's board of trustees; and ledgers representing Flanders Field and Arlington Cemetery.
The two burial sites were suggested by foundation member Paul "Bud" Billiard because Flanders Field is the burial site of many Americans who died while defending France in World War I and symbolizes all American veterans who are buried abroad; while Arlington National Cemetery represents all those buried in the U.S.
Several cherry blossom trees line a cement stairway extending from the existing parking lot above the memorial park's site, and an asphalt road has been built from the north end of that lot to the site, with a small parking area at the foot of it.
Crews with Danny Hukill Contracting of Weirton built the steps, a walkway through the site and foundation under the supervision of Ernie Stucin and Charles "Poke" Beall, both members of the foundation. The business performed a significant amount of the work at no cost, said foundation leaders.
Many volunteers also were involved, installing lighting for the park and the three flagpoles, planting the trees and doing landscaping and other work.
Still to come is a bronze sculpture created by Canadian artist Tim Schmalz. The piece is 7-feet tall and 4-feet wide and will rest on a stone block at the center of the park. It's being transported by train to Detroit and will be shipped to Brooke County by truck.
Schmalz' past work includes sculptures for the Mother Theresa Memorial in Calcutta, India; the American Soldiers Memorial in Walkhill, N.Y.; and the Fallen Firefighters Memorial Monument in Ontario, Canada.
Armstrong said Schmalz approached him about providing a sculpture for the park and he initially didn't believe the group could afford him. But he said Schmalz was willing to work within the foundation's budget.
Plans call for it and 267 granite pavers extending between the sculpture and the wall to be added before the dedication.
Armstrong said there still will be space for about 230 pavers if anyone is interested in sponsoring one after the dedication. The cost is $150 to sponsor a paver, which may be inscribed with the name of a veteran or any loved one, living or dead.
A sample paver and applications may be found at Main Street Bank in Wellsburg or online at www.brookeveteranspark.org.
While the $171,180 park is nearly completed, the foundation plans to establish a fund for its continued maintenance.
Many individuals, families, organizations and businesses have pledged thousands of dollars for the project, while the foundation's fundraising committee has raised money for the project through a variety of events.
At a recent meeting of the foundation, Paul "Bud" Billiard said Armstrong's leadership was key to the project's completion.
"We couldn't have done this without his leadership and organization," Billiard said, adding Armstrong sought input during development.
Armstrong told the foundation members, "This has been going on for eight years and there have been a lot of people involved. We all should be proud of what we've done."
He added the many Brooke County residents who have served in the military deserve to be recognized and honored through the park.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)