Kingsport Tomorrow has been working for more than 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 last year, and since then the organization has been raising funds to cover the estimated $700,000 construction cost.
Jim Erwin, chairman of the project, said fund raising has been slow lately, and the organization needs around $200,000 to cover the cost of the project.
“We got around $500,000, and that came OK, though not easy. This last little bit has been like pulling teeth, real slow,” Erwin said. “There’s just been so much going on with the Boys and Girls Club (project) and the new YMCA. People are just tapped out.”
Kingsport Tomorrow officials had hoped to break ground on the project the day after Fun Fest and have the memorial dedicated by Nov. 11, Veterans Day. However, due to a lack of money, the groundbreaking has been pushed back twice and is now tentatively scheduled for February, Erwin said, adding the organization still plans on holding the dedication for Memorial Day 2008 — the original date proposed for the dedication.
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 1,488 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 — living or dead. The pavers cost $100 (for two lines) or $110 (for three lines) and can be purchased at the Kingsport Tomorrow office.
Erwin said around 300 pavers are left for purchase and would make a good Christmas gift.
“We’re in the process of going through and making sure all the spellings are correct and centered up and sent to the engravers. We have to start in about six weeks sending these things off to the engravers,” Erwin said. “Once they’re sold, we can’t put any more in the project.”
Most of the people purchasing the pavers are inscribing a name and rank, where the veteran served, and if they received a medal.
“We’ve had a couple of guys in the UDT (Underwater Demolition Team) — the precursor of the Navy SEALs — and some survivors of the Bataan Death March,” Erwin said. “The pavers are for both living and deceased military personnel. A lot of folks think you have to be dead to get your name on there, but you don’t. It’s for any person that has worn the uniform of the U.S. military.”
For more information, to donate money for the project or to purchase a paver go to www.kingsportveteransmemorial.org.