The central concept for a proposed “Honor Walk” at Veterans Memorial Park at Beacon Hill is honoring veterans who have sacrificed to defend the country’s flag and the ideals which that flag represents.
So it was no small step when the poles that will display the American Flag, as well as the flags of the branches of the military at new monument in Gulf County, arrived just after the Labor Day holiday.
Currently in storage, awaiting completion of critical groundwork and fundraising, the poles, paid by Tourist Development Council bed tax dollars, will be the eye catchers for travelers along U.S. 98.
“From the precipice of Beacon Hill they will appear magnificent in their dominance of the landscape,” said Rodney Herring, a member of the citizens committee spearheading the Honor Walk project.
In the middle of the array of poles will be the one displaying the American Flag, standing 70-feet tall; that is about 15 feet taller than the flag pole in the Port City Shopping Center.
The other five poles, each 50-foot tall, will display the flags of the military branches, Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.
“Their majesty will be (a highlight) to those traveling along U.S. 98 and the Gulf Coast,” Herring said.
The poles, designed to exceed coastline engineering standards, were delivered in individual sheaths from Bell Signs out of Orlando.
Herring and fellow Honor Walk committee members George Duren and Jessica Susich were on hand to take delivery.
“We are amazed that the Honor Walk has come so far so soon,” Herring said. “For some it has been difficult to envision the behind-the-scenes and beneath-surface work that must precede the construction of any monument or installation of memorial brick pavers.
“Once this (project) reaches its final touches, none who visit will have any inkling of the steel-reinforced concrete buried beneath the surface.”
The “Honor Walk” will fill an 80-foot-by-140-foot area along the bluff at Veterans Memorial Park, which offers some of the finest views of the ocean in the county.
The Board of County Commissioners broke ground on the project in May after approving conceptual plans last summer and establishing a citizens committee to spearhead finalizing the plans and raising funds.
At each point of the monument’s central pentagon anchored by the American flag, 8-foot-by-3-foot monuments for each branch of the military will stand, each inscribed with the Gulf County veterans who “paid the ultimate sacrifice,” in battle.
There will be seating behind the flags and several areas for quiet reflection and brick and concrete walkways thread through the memorial.
The entire area would be surrounded by a 4-foot high fence with pillars spaced along the length of the fence.
Walkways will extend 20 feet from the center of a monument in opposite directions.
As Herring noted, “there remains much to be done.”
Fundraising has already inched past the midway point of the $300,000 goal.
“The committee is convinced that those who honor and cherish the memory of our veterans will do all that they must to transform this dream into a reality,” Herring said.
Memorial pavers are also being sold for the walkways that will thread through the memorial.
While representing a small fraction of the overall costs of the project, the pavers are a way for anyone and everyone to be involved in the project, Herring said.
“Let us all say that we played a part in making this hallowed place a place to remember our veterans with respect and reverence,” Herring said.
Work on the site of the Honor Walk is expected to begin soon with a proposed opening of early 2019.
If weather permits and fundraising and construction continue apace, the hope is a “grand reveal” would take place as soon as Memorial Day.
“The Honor Walk will complete the recognition of veterans in this park, recognition which is well-deserved,” said George Duren, another member of the project committee.
“This will help remind everyone our freedoms have been willingly paid by our veterans. “We want people to drive by on (U.S. 98) and look up and say Gulf County respects it veterans. Our veterans deserve to be recognized.”
To learn more about fundraising efforts or to donate go to: http://www.VeteransParkHonorWalk.org.