Ground broken on Veterans Memorial

BY KYLE JAHNER – kjahner@newsobserver.com – link

Shovels were lined up in preparation for the groundbreaking of the Veterans Memorial. – KYLE JAHNER

Sgt. David Reid’s wife wanted to surprise him with a brick in Garner’s veterans’ memorial when he came back from his latest tour of Afghanistan.

After the groundbreaking on Friday, the family was joking about saving the money for the brick, thanking the kids for putting up with Ramen noodles for a little while.

“I like Ramen noodles,” Reid’s 15-year-old son, Robert Jr., said, prompting laughs.

Reid joined about a dozen other veterans and civic leaders in breaking ground at the veterans’ memorial at Lake Benson Park in front of an audience that included dozens of veterans from various conflicts.

Mayor Ronnie Williams and Wake County Commissioner Phil Matthews – both Vietnam veterans – spoke at the ceremony, as did Faye Gardner, vice president of the Garner Veterans Memorial Committee.

Active duty Sgt. David Reid, far left, joins veterans and Garner civic leaders in a ground-breaking ceremony for the Garner Veterans Memorial in Lake Benson Park. – KYLE JAHNER

A brisk wind swept through the park on a chilly day, with Matthews, a former Garner councilman, suggesting it was the spirit of fallen veterans.

“I’m anxious to shovel some dirt,” Matthews told the crowd of about 100. “I asked if they could have it ready in two weeks, but they said it will take a little longer than that.”

The $500,000 project had been delayed for years because of the economic downturn but now stands just $70,000 short of its goal, with government donations and brick and bench purchases slowly swelling the reserves, Gardner said.

A donor has stepped forward and committed to match dollar-for-dollar any future donations, he added.
The project is to be completed in the spring and dedicated on Memorial Day.

Reid was at a loss for words in how he felt about being asked to take part in the groundbreaking. “I don’t know how to explain it,” he said. “There are no words to express how I feel. I was so moved.”

Reid said the memorial shows the level of patriotism in the town. “I think the mayor said it really well during his speech,” the platoon sergeant said. “When you sign up for the military, you give them a check, and it’s for an amount up to and including your life if you have to. You definitely remember all the fallen heroes. Having this is really a good tribute.”

Gardner said each “brick represents a life.” She then nodded to the Reid family and said: “That’s what it’s all about. It’s not about politicians or speeches, it’s about their family. Those kids not only will never forget their dad every time they see his brick, but they will never forget this day.”

Vietnam veterans were particularly well represented at the ceremony.

Veterans sand listening to speeches before the groundbreaking at Lake Benson Park. – KYLE JAHNER

Juan Munoz, a Long Island native who has lived in Garner since leaving the service in 1975, said it seems as though many don’t realize the sacrifice of the previous generation. He said he was glad that veterans now returning home get a better reception than Vietnam vets received, regardless of people’s thoughts on a war itself.

“It’s good to see the way we do treat the military when they come home,” Munoz said. “Every one of them deserves a nice homecoming.”

Matthews said the memorial means a lot to him; he lives down the street and drives by the park daily. He also talked about the sacrifice of veterans. “Some have visual scars; others have scars you can’t see,” he said. “Vet to vet, you don’t have to say a lot and they’ll understand.”

After the ceremony finished, the crowd disbursed, leaving dirt and about a dozen golden shovels sticking up out of the ground near the flagpole in the park.

“This park is the most beautiful place for something like this,” Munoz said.
Jahner: 919-829-4822

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