By Alex Bridges
Stephens City is planning to join other towns in the region by building a memorial to U.S. military veterans.
With a design and fundraising efforts under way, town leaders say they hope to build the memorial in time for a dedication on or around Veteran's Day in November. Town Manager Mike Kehoe said he hopes to break ground on the memorial site in June.
Plans call for Stephens City to build the memorial in Newtown Commons. Preliminary drawings depict paths of commemorative bricks, likely engraved with names of veterans, that lead to a wall that also would feature similar bricks. Poles with the United States and Virginia flags would rise from behind the wall that would be flanked by landscaping and benches.
The "more passive" memorial would feature the five branches of the military - the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and the Coast Guard.
A site plan has been filed with the town and is awaiting approval, Kehoe said.
"I think once we break ground it'll start moving along faster as well," Kehoe said.
Supporters also hope the project can gain momentum with the help of this weekend's Newtown Festival. The drawing of the memorial will be at the site.
Information on the town website notes that plans call for a "Walk of Honor" for the memorial that would feature the commemorative bricks that the organizers are selling to raise the money for the project. Fundraising efforts have approached $10,000. While the town may need to raise a total of $30,000 for the project, Kehoe said that in-kind services such as donated materials may reduce the cost and fundraising goal.
Kehoe recalled that work began several years ago to build a memorial to veterans. Then Town Planner Brian Henshaw headed up the project with the Stephens City Parks and Recreation Committee. A subcommittee is assigned to work on the memorial. Kehoe took over recently when Henshaw left after more than six years to take the town manager post in Haymarket.
"It just started out with some ideas that the town doesn't have a memorial to our veterans here," Kehoe said.
Town Councilman Ronald Bowers concurred with Kehoe.
"We noticed in traveling up and down [U.S.] Route 11 in the Shenandoah Valley some of the other small communities already had [a memorial]," Bowers said Friday.
Bowers noted that Mount Jackson recently completed its veterans memorial. The councilman recalled that he and other town officials talked with Mount Jackson officials about the efforts they took to build their memorial. Most of the funds for that project came from businesses and private individuals, Bowers added.
"We're still in the fundraising process," Bowers said.
Anyone interested in helping the effort can donate by buying commemorative bricks or "pavers." Bricks can be purchased to honor anyone who served in the U.S. military, regardless of their relationship to the donor or the town, Kehoe explained. Kehoe said he probably will buy a commemorative brick for his father and grandfather's names and military units even though neither man was from Stephens City.
"We're trying not to limit it to just people from Stephens City," Kehoe said.
But the town likely will limit the memorial to veterans of conflicts in the 20th century and later. Civil War veterans have received memorials in the past and this effort focuses on memorializing those military members of the more current conflicts. Kehoe noted that the number of veterans of earlier conflicts such as World War II continues to decline, while the number of veterans of more current conflicts grows.
Visit http://tinyurl.com/omtk5sx or call the town offices at 869-3087 for more information on how to help the fundraising effort.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org