By Ralph O. Dennis
It took two attempts and more than three years of hard work but the Pickens County Veterans Memorial Park has been dedicated. With a gathering estimated to be between 500 and 600, the members of the Pickens County Veterans Memorial Park Association (PCVMPA) held an impressive ceremony Thursday.
The park project came about by the desire of several residents wanting to honor those who served in our armed forces not just those that gave their lives in service. Pickens County has the largest percentage of residents that are veterans of any county in the United States. Twelve percent of our residents have served.
The concept was the brainchild of Wayne Poore. He had visited many memorials and thought that Pickens County should have one. He and others then began the process. They approached Jasper Mayor John Weaver. Jim Elrod told the Progress that they asked for a parcel of land to be donated for this specific purpose. Originally the site was to be inside the main part of Lee Newton Park. The site was changed to outside the park along Maple Street which is better because it allows for expansion. The work of raising the money and designing the park then began.
Seeking the aide of local business owners, the association found John Trammell and his staff at Community Bank of Pickens County. With their help, things began to come together. The current list of supporters is an impressive one. From governmental agencies to businesses and individuals the people of Pickens County came through just like they always do. A memorial brick program was also born. Memorial bricks can be obtained for $125 to honor your service or the service of a loved one. The project, as of dedication day, is 80 percent funded. Over $100,000 has been raised but more is needed for planned expansion.
Each of the five branches of our military is honored with an upright marble standard with the appropriated logo on it.
The ceremony on August 9 included speakers from just about every veteran or service related organization. Every person attending was given an American Flag and they were waved a lot. A 21-gun salute was given at the end of the ceremony closing with TAPS played by Faith Dement of Reinhardt University. The ceremony had a C-130 fly-over scheduled but the rain messed that up and then scheduling conflicts prevented one for this ceremony.
Frank Leist, president/chairman of the Pickens County Veterans Memorial Park, wanted to especially commend several people for their work.
“Wayne Poore was the visionary for the veterans memorial park,” Leist said. “He started over three years ago putting this organization together. He established the Pickens County Veterans Memorial Park, Inc. as a nonprofit organization. He was joined by Ron Wheeler who was his administrator who kept things running throughout these years. He is the secretary for PCVMP. We currently have 29 active members in this organization. This was not the case throughout these past three years.
“Ray Smith, Sr. the general project manager and John Trammell, president and CEO of Community Bank of Pickens County, came on board and are the embodiment of what you have at the memorial today. Ray started the bricks of honor campaign and worked very closely with John on the actual construction of what we have today. We also have Gary Bledsoe VP/chairman of Bricks of Honor. He was essential managing the brick orders and getting them placed at the site. He treated each of the bricks as if they were his very own. At one time he had over 500 bricks in his own garage at home.”
It is not too late to help. PCVMP is a non-profit, tax exempt, 502© (3) organization and donations are tax deductible. If you wish to donate in lieu of purchasing a brick, you may send a donation to PCVMP at P.O. Box 247, Talking Rock, GA 30175; or go to smile.amazon.com/ch/81-2961972 and a small portion of your purchases will be donated.