Hinesville and Liberty County community and military leaders broke ground on the future Veterans Memorial Walk on Saturday morning at Bryant Commons before the start of the third annual Veterans Salute.
The $1.1 million memorial will represent all branches of the military and consist of pavers engraved with the names of loved ones from contributors. After more than four years of planning, the memorial is expected to be completed by November 2016.
Organizations leading the cause for the memorial are the Hinesville Military Affairs Committee and the Veterans Memorial Walk board.
“When you begin something like this, it’s like having a baby,” said George Holtzman, the board president of the Veterans Memorial Walk, about the contributors to the memorial.
“I mean it’s not here, it’s a dream, it’s a vision. Then you try to get everybody’s ideas and put them together and end up with something that everybody can be proud of.”
Holtzman thanked the Bryant family and the Bryant Commons trustees committee for setting aside the land for the memorial. Fort Stewart had offered land for a memorial, but after consulting with local veterans groups, they decided to have their own memorial downtown area instead, according to Holtzman.
The Memorial Walk will have granite seating in sections that will represent each military branch.
The walking path will encircle a small pond, and the engraved pavers will lead visitors to the main monument, located at the edge of the water. The memorial will also honor prisoners of war and those missing in action.
“This memorial park will represent all services,” Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas said. “We wanted a park that honored all veterans — old and new, all veterans of the United States. We wanted a monument … worthy of the location here in Bryant Commons and worthy of the sacrifices of our veterans.”
Liberty County Board of Commissioners Chairman Donald Lovette said the groundbreaking made him “Liberty County proud” because of the organizations and people who came together to bring the memorial to the area.
Col. Townley Hedrick, the Fort Stewart garrison commander, told the audience that the veterans present are the inspiration for the memorial.
“And I’m really just proud on behalf of Fort Stewart, not only to be a great community, but really, Fort Stewart and Hinesville is a family,” he said. “And so we’re really proud to be here as a family, as a part of this wonderful memorial that you are putting together.”
“Well, I tell you, this is such a special occasion, such a momentous occasion,” U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., said after the ceremony. “Liberty County and Hinesville is such a great community. I mean, they are so welcoming of our military. And for them to undertake this project, to honor our veterans, what a great thing for them to do.”
Holtzman said that the Veterans Memorial Walk board has raised almost $250,000 toward the memorial.
Anyone who wants to contribute can go to veteransmemorialhinesville.com.