Hundreds of people gathered Monday at Greene County Veterans Memorial Park in Waynesburg amid a seemingly endless wave of American flags to witness the park’s official dedication, and to pay their respects to past military veterans in honor of Memorial Day.
The park, located at 900 Rolling Meadows Road in Waynesburg between the tennis courts and Greene County Historical Society Museum, was a perfect setting for the dedication ceremony on Memorial Day, as those in attendance were treated to musical performances by Heaven Bound Ministries, the Presentation of Colors and a 21 gun salute by the Greene County Honor Guard.
The ceremony also featured comments by Connie Hart, a member of the Memorial Park committee, and retired U.S. Marine Corps. Col. Mike Belding, who also serves as county commissioner.
“In September of 2017, our small committee brought the Vietnam Veterans Traveling Memorial Wall to Greene County,” Hart told the crowd. “You supported that effort financially, you showed up in droves to view the wall, brought your children, volunteered around the clock in many capacities and attended the ceremonies to honor the veterans on the wall and their families.”
Hart said it was estimated that more than 10,000 people visited the fairgrounds during the three-day period of the wall’s visit.
“There was such an outpouring of support and patriotism that we knew we had to do something more,” she said. “So … by Nov. 1, 2017, our committee had secured a location and was working on the draft sketch of the Veterans Memorial Park. Greene County, this memorial park is a direct result of your patriotism and gratitude for veterans … thank you for being here to celebrate with us.”
Hart recognized the many people who contributed to the park, mentioning Vietnam veteran Dick Bortz for being the first person to encourage the committee to move forward with the plan; Jim Hopkins for the concrete work; Hoy’s Construction; and Fred Clark Nursery of Carmichaels for the landscaping.
She also thanked numerous local businesses that donated supplies or money, and Waynesburg VFW Post 4793 for donating the flags and flagpoles. She also acknowledged the individuals who helped as well.
“People held chicken roasts and online fundraisers, donated buses and porta-johns and sent donations … to help cover costs,” she said. “The outpouring of community support and appreciation has been overwhelming. You have blessed us by your support, Greene County, whether it was volunteering your time, buying a brick or bench or just offering sincere words of gratitude. We thank you.”
Belding also stressed the importance of the dedication.
“Today, we have two purposes for gathering, and one is to pay tribute to those who have died in service of our country,” he said. “In remembering the fallen, we also honor their loved ones - spouses, fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, friends. We do live in gratitude each and every day for the precious gift that they have given to us.”
The ceremony also included an invocation and closing prayer by Zane Mitchell and the playing of “Taps” by Livia and Gerard Schleicher.
Following the ceremony, veterans and their families visited the park, engaging in fellowship with other veterans and reading names on the granite tablets.
Bortz and veteran John “Buzz” Walters stood at one of the tablets and smiled, realizing their names were etched close together.
“I am proud of Greene County and the many ways the people supported this park,” Walters said. “We must not, we can not forget the significance of our veterans, particularly those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. I believe everyone who came here today not only honored our veterans, they also honored their families and themselves as well.”
The circle memorial includes a park-like setting with a flagpole and granite benches that encourage visitors to walk around and remember all veterans who have faithfully served the United States.
There are also granite benches sponsored by businesses, organizations and families honoring area veterans. The committee plans to add two additional granite tablets in the near future, and a pavilion with picnic tables is also available near the site.
The memorial itself consists of a single black granite tablet displaying the U.S. Armed Forces service emblems flanked by gray granite tablets. Each tablet is custom etched, honoring a total of 300 service members.
The dedication ceremony was just one of the many different Memorial Day services held throughout the county.
On Sunday, the Brooks-Crago American Legion Post No. 816 of Rices Landing held services at Hewitt Cemetery. Following the program, legionnaires and legion riders proceeded to Crucible/St. Mary’s Cemetery for a salute to the deceased.
The James R. Maxon American Legion Post No. 992 of Mt. Morris also held services Sunday at Kiger Cemetery and Claughton Chapel Cemetery. The Carmichaels Honor Guard held services at Garards Fort Cemetery and the Greensboro VFW Honor Roll.
On Monday, Carmichaels Honor Guard participated in a service at Laurel Point Cemetery with state Rep. Pam Snyder, D-Jefferson, serving as guest speaker. Waynesburg VFW Post No. 4793 and James B. Farrell American Legion Post 300 joined the Greene County Honor Guard in a service at the VFW Post home.