Following the annual Veterans Day Ceremony at the courthouse Monday, officials held a groundbreaking to mark the beginning of construction of the county’s new Veterans Park and Museum.
Veterans Service Officer and Commissioner Bernie Ash spoke to the crowd about some of the reasons for building the park.
“In World War II, 16.1 million soldiers fought, [and] 1.5 million are left; they’re dying at the rate of approximately 670 a day,” Ash said. “In six years, most of the World War II vets will be gone.”
He related some of the numbers of veterans remaining from the Vietnam War, in which Ash himself served and told the attendees “a lot of our history is dying before our eyes.”
“A lot of donors and the county commission have taken it upon themselves to build the veterans park and museum. It will house some of the history before these people are gone,” he continued.
In honor of the occasion, state Rep. Mark Pody came to the podium with fellow Wilson County legislators Rep. Susan Lynn and Sen. Mae Beavers to present Ash with an American flag flown over the Capitol building Sunday.
“This is a big deal; this is absolutely huge,” Pody said in reference to the park project.
Last to speak before the official “shoveling of dirt,” as Ash said, was Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto.
“It’s an honor for me to stand in the presence of so many great Americans today,” he said. “The history and the stories are endless among this crowd, therefore that’s the reason for the veterans park. We wanted to honor and preserve your history.”
He noted the architects and construction firms that donated their services to help plan and determine the cost of the new park and museum.
“They did all of this for free,” Hutto said.
“Mr. Bernie Ash and Mrs. Carol Dedman took the ball and ran with it and raised over $150,000 to put aside for that park and then Commissioner Ash went to the county commission, and your county commission so graciously set aside $600,000 for the building of the park.”
Following the ceremony, each of the builders and architects, Ash, Dedman, Hutto, the legislators and representatives of many of the veterans organizations each grabbed a shovel and tossed the first dirt for the build.