Kingsport Tomorrow delays Veterans Memorial groundbreaking

Matthew Lane • Jul 24, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Jim Erwin stands at the site for the planned Veterans Memorial at J. Fred Johnson Park. Photo by David Grace.


KINGSPORT - Kingsport Tomorrow will not be breaking ground on a new Veterans Memorial this week as hoped, but instead is pushing back the event until later this year in order to raise more money for the project.

Kingsport Tomorrow has been working for two years to create a new Veterans Memorial in front of J. Fred Johnson Park on Fort Henry Drive between the old Highway Patrol Building and Indian Court.

Conceptual drawings were revealed in October, and for the past year the organization has been raising funds to cover the estimated $700,000 construction cost. Kingsport Tomorrow officials had hoped to break ground on the project Monday - the day after Fun Fest - and have the memorial dedicated by Nov. 11 - Veterans Day.

However, the groundbreaking has now been pushed back until October or November, and the dedication is set for Memorial Day 2008 - the original date proposed for the dedication.

Jim Erwin, chairman of the project, said lack of money is the reason why the dates have been pushed back.

"We would have liked to have had more money. It was slow, and we didn't anticipate it being that slow for a project like this. So we decided we would move it back, keep it open and continue to get community support," Erwin said. "We got a little overaggressive and decided (to delay the groundbreaking) a couple of months ago. We took a good look at it, the finance committee, the committee as a whole and decided let's get the community more involved."

Susan LaGuardia, director of Kingsport Tomorrow, said she has been pleased with the progress of the project thus far.

"I wish we had all of our funding in place so we could break ground and complete it in three months," LaGuardia said. "The wheels of industry turn slowly, and it takes awhile for people to learn about things."

Erwin said construction would take about three months to complete and the slow fund raising will not affect the scope of the project. Kingsport Tomorrow has not asked the city of Kingsport for any funds for the project.

In addition to several news stories written about the project, Kingsport Tomorrow has erected a display at the site, showing the conceptual drawing for the memorial. Officials also worked a table at the site during Fun Fest to get the message out to the public.

On Saturday, during the launching of the balloons, the organization allowed people to submit notes to family members and veterans, which will be poured into the concrete of the memorial.

"We're not going to read any of them, and we'll keep them until they pour the footings - just like what was done for the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C.," Erwin said.

Conceptual drawings show a memorial of red, white and blue granite that includes a circular area with six 7-foot-tall granite tablets, one for each war from World War I to Operation Iraqi Freedom, with two from World War II. The tablets will display the names of 349 fallen soldiers from Kingsport on one side and the map of the theater of operations on the other.

The memorial will also include a centered U.S. flag, which will remain lit at all times, benches, earth berms, and two walkways leading up to the circular area from each side. The proposal calls for the reconfiguration of the existing parking lot and the construction of a new parking lot off Indian Court.

The project also calls for 1,440 granite pavers to lead up to the memorial along both sides of the walkway, where people and veterans can inscribe messages, their name or the name of another veteran. The pavers cost $100 (for two lines) or $110 (for three lines) and can be purchased at the Kingsport Tomorrow office.

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