KINGSPORT - Work to build a new veterans memorial in the Model City is slated to begin this summer, and officials say they hope the project is complete by Veterans Day.
Kingsport Tomorrow has worked for more than 18 months on building 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 of the proposed memorial were revealed in October and show the memorial to be of red, white and blue granite and include 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 contain 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. Granite pavers will line both sides of the walkway. The proposal calls for the reconfiguration of the existing parking lot and the construction of a new parking lot off Indian Court.
Kingsport Tomorrow held its annual meeting Thursday afternoon and gave updates on its various projects including the veterans memorial.
Jim Erwin, project chairman, said Kingsport Tomorrow has a granite fabricator on board who is in the process of working with the architect on selecting the right type and color of granite.
"Because we want this to be as close to red, white and blue as we can find," Erwin said.
Kingsport Tomorrow has interviewed several general contractors, and representatives hope to be able to announce the selection next week. In addition, Erwin said the group is planning to break ground on July 23 - the day after Fun Fest - with a completion date of Nov. 11, Veterans Day.
Kingsport Tomorrow officials have said the cost of the proposed memorial will range between $500,000 to $750,000 and be paid for through donations from local businesses and industry, grants from the state, and possibly the East Tennessee Foundation.
The organization also intends to sell 2,000 granite pavers leading up to the memorial for $100 each, where people and veterans can inscribe messages, their name or the name of another veteran.
Erwin said one soldier intends to leave a message for the unit he served with in Vietnam, while another family intends to use the paver as a headstone for their father.
"The fund raising has been slow, but we haven't really pushed it out into the public. We've gotten some local contributions. There's been some attorneys who have graciously donated. Once we get public, I feel real confident (the donations) will be there," Erwin said.
Erwin said Kingsport Tomorrow will be publicizing another list of names from World War II to make sure all of the names and which theater the soldier served in are correct.
To help with the project, Kingsport Tomorrow has enlisted Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 979 to serve as advisers.
Nick Patrick, president of Chapter 979, said the organization is happy with the project, and more public support will come when brochures about the project go out in March.
"We're very happy - the look of the memorial, what it's going to represent, the way they have the monoliths laid out," Patrick said. "We're really into this project now that it's gotten off the drawing board and now becoming the absolute reality."
John Wright, vice president of Chapter 979, said he is impressed with the proposed look of the memorial.
"We're very happy to have it here in Kingsport. We've needed it for years," he said.
Paul Williams, treasurer of the organization, said he too is pleased with the progress.
"It's been really great working on the project, trying to get all of the money together, trying to sell pavers and get everything coming together so we can get this project going and get it over by Veterans Day," he said.