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American Veterans Memorial plans expand

Thursday, December 2, 2004

Staff Writer

Plans for the American Veterans Memorial continue to grow bigger and better.

"We've had so much support," said Ash Flat Mayor Brien Nix Hall. "Initially when we started it was a flagpole and four walls. Now it is just so much more."

The memorial will be located near the Ash Flat Ball Park and will include six brick walls with an engraved map of the world, said Leonard Holden of the American Veterans Memorial Committee. It will also have a 60-foot flagpole displaying the American flag and flags from the five branches of the military.

It will also include plaques honoring the branches of the military, a fountain, a Civil War cannon, four 20-pound cannon balls, and a helicopter and other military vehicles. Two bronze statues of soldiers, one of a male soldier and another of a female soldier, are also planned.

The project is expected to cost more than $300,000; approximately $175,000 has been raised so far. Recently two individuals each donated $25,000 to the memorial which will pay for the two statues.

The American Veterans Memorial Committee has received money, pledges and in-kind gifts for the memorial from Hardy to Melbourne, from Searcy to Paragould, and from California to Washington, D.C.

"This is not an Ash Flat project. It's a regional project," Holden said.

The committee plans to generate support from the four area cities -- Ash Flat, Highland, Cherokee Village and Hardy. Holden asked the city of Highland to donate $1,000 during the Nov. 23 meeting. The city will give Holden an answer by mid-January.

"I think it's a worthwhile project. I just don't know how much (money) we've got," Alderman David Harris said.

Bricks are being sold for the memorial and can be engraved to honor veterans. Each brick can be engraved with up to three lines with no more than 18 characters per line. The memorial has been expanded to accommodate 3,500 bricks, Holden said.

The memorial is one of Ash Flat's largest projects under way. The council decided in August to withdraw from a 50/50 matching grant proposal from the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism for improvements to the park so the city could determine what goes into the park.

Without the grant, the plans for the memorial can continue in the direction the committee wants, but the city is left to pay for the planned walking track lighting, playground equipment and handicapped-accessible sidewalk.

The city is paying for the improvements out of pocket and they should be completed by summer 2005. A pavilion is planned at a later date.

The memorial, as Holden originally designed, was to be built in Loberg Park in Hardy. Hardy had also been awarded a park grant and did not want to jeopardize the grant for a children's playground in the park.

Holden then received Ash Flat's support and the committee was established.

The American Veterans Memorial Committee is an eight-person committee of Hall, Holden, Nelson Gatewood, Sharron K. Mathis, Charlotte Ratliff, Kim Whitten, Freda Gamblin and Renee Clay-Thomas.

Bricks can be bought for a minimum of $50 each. To purchase bricks or to donate money or gifts, contact Ash Flat City Hall at 870-994-7324.

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