Kingsport Tomorrow and the recently formed Tri-Cities Military Affairs Council announced on Thursday plans to expand the Kingsport Veterans Memorial later this year, adding 382 red granite pavers (bearing the names of veterans) around a 950-square-foot seating plaza adjacent to the existing memorial.
The expansion project also calls for six blue granite seats on the corners of the plaza, replacing an existing 20-foot light pole with two, 16-foot light poles and the removal of the existing swing set.
“We’re ecstatic Kingsport Tomorrow is on board to move this forward and veterans will be happy we’re finally moving ahead,” said Ernie Rumsby, president of TCMAC. “It’s quite an undertaking and we’re confident they can get it done.”
Kingsport’s Veterans Memorial stands in front of J. Fred Johnson Park on Fort Henry Drive and was dedicated on Veterans Day in 2008. Kingsport Tomorrow and local veterans organizations championed the $862,000 project.
The existing memorial includes six granite tablets with the names of more than 370 fallen Kingsport soldiers from World War I to the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. On both sides of the two walkways leading up to the plaza are rows of more than 1,700 granite pavers bearing the names of veterans.
Kingsport Tomorrow sold the pavers and allowed people and veterans to inscribe a message, their name or the name of another veteran. Since the original project could only include so many pavers, some people did not make the cut and were put on a waiting list until the second phase of the project could move forward, a phase that had always been a part of the original plan for the memorial.
“We’ve had so many people come forward who were not a part of the (original memorial). We hope to make at least 382 people very happy,” said Susan LaGuardia, director of Kingsport Tomorrow.
Sam Jones, treasurer of Kingsport Tomorrow and a former Sullivan County commissioner, said $150,000 needs to be raised from the community to fund the $300,000 expansion. The 382 new pavers — at $200 each — would generate approximately $76,000 and with the existing money Kingsport Tomorrow has in the bank, a groundbreaking would begin as soon as the additional money is raised, Jones said.
Kingsport Tomorrow is also accepting tax-deductible donations for the expansion; $50 will get a person recognized as a Friend of the Kingsport Veterans Memorial with the first 100 receiving a DVD of the original project.
Kingsport Tomorrow purchased over 550,000 pounds of granite for the construction of the memorial. The granite came from India and was purchased from Lexington Blue Granite Co. of Elberton, Ga.
Jones said the new pavers would be the same red granite used with the original memorial, that Kingsport Tomorrow purchased enough five years ago to cover the future expansion. What’s left to buy is the blue granite for the seating area, Jones added.
Kingsport Tomorrow plans to contact the 382 people on the waiting list for pavers, in the order by which the reservations were made. If any of the pavers are not purchased by those on the waiting list, Kingsport Tomorrow plans to sell the remaining ones on a “first come” basis. The price will be $200 per paver and the inscription must be received by May 30.
Contributions for the expansion can be made at the First Kingsport Credit Union (308 Clay Street) or at the Kingsport Tomorrow office (in the V.O. Dobbins Sr. Community Center). For more information, contact Kingsport Tomorrow at 246-2017.