Veterans Memorial Park dedicated in Harrisburg
After two years, the Harrisburg Downtown Veterans Memorial Park is complete. The memorial park's dedication was held on Veterans Day, Wednesday, Nov. 11, with a crowd of veterans, their families, and community members in attendance.
According to Kevin Caldwell, American Legion Commander for Poinsett County, the land the park sits on once belonged to a barber shop owned by Jess Murray, Sr. Murray, who passed away in 2005, was a U.S. Army veteran who was a prisoner of war of the Germans during World War II. He also served as Poinsett County Veterans Service Officer for 31 years. His son, Jess Murray, Jr., was running the barber shop when the building was destroyed during a storm a few years ago. The city purchased the land, and the community, along with the American Legion, set about turning the area into a place honoring all Poinsett County veterans.
A gazebo, donated by the Butler Foundation, was put up last summer. Sgt. Lee Blagg found the soldier's cross, a carbon fiber replica, and the city encased it for the park. The Maddox Foundation provided grass and flowers for the park, the city of Harrisburg takes care of the grounds, the American Legion supplied the bricks, and Jim Poole provided flowers.
The platform the soldier's cross sits on is paved with bricks containing the names of Poinsett County veterans, both living and deceased. Caldwell said the bricks are meant to represent veterans countywide and not just in Harrisburg. As of Veterans Day, 136 bricks had been laid at the monument with 44 more on the way. Caldwell said people can still order bricks and that he would like to see the entire plaform filled with bricks. Order forms are available from the Harrisburg Chamber of Commerce, city hall, or at the monument itself.
Caldwell said Mayor Randy Mills had been instrumental throughout the project and that it took a community effort to complete the park. "Everybody has done something here," Caldwell said. "This park has been bringing the community together."
During the dedication ceremony, Caldwell said, "My father told me: many hands make light work. This park was made possible by many people. Without the city of Harrisburg, the city council, and Randy Mills, we would not be here today."
Mills told the crowd the park is dedicated to all those who take up arms to serve this nation and defend its freedom. "If you served in the military in any capacity, you have put your life on the line to preserve freedom," Mills said. He added that the park will honor all veterans past, present, and future.
Rep. Dwight Tosh presented four citations from the 90th General Assembly honoring Medal of Honor recipient James Hendrix (deceased), and Arkansas Veterans Hall of Fame inductees Robert Brashears, Larry Graves, and Timothy Williams. Graves and Williams were inducted into the Hall of Fame on Saturday, and Brashears was inducted last year.
Terry Long, Poinsett County Veterans Service Officer, spoke briefly, calling Veterans Day the best holiday next to Christmas and Easter. At the end of the ceremony, Caldwell lit a candle for Donald Smith, Jr., at the request of Smith's mother. Smith lost his life in Iraq. Before the closing prayer, Mills said, "I want you to know, veterans, it's pretty humbling standing in front of you guys. It really is."