Veterans Support Group members have raised the $75,000 needed for the Wyoming County Veterans Memorial in Oceana as well as an adjacent parking area.
Currently, the majority of the 430 memorial bricks that have been sold already have been engraved and the monuments are being shipped.
The group plans to unveil the completed memorial during Veterans Day ceremonies.
“This will be for the veterans,” emphasized Denny Lester, one of the organizers. “They’ve accomplished so much in seven months.”
Those ceremonies will also include the West Virginia Vietnam Veterans Mobile Wall, which includes the names of West Virginians who were killed in action, prisoners of war, and those still missing.
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Backed by a black brick commemorative wall, the memorial will include three 6-foot-high “uprights” that will carry the names of those who died in the designated war, along with memorial benches, and insignias of all the military branches – all in a semi-circle design.
The “uprights,” located in front of the commemorative wall, will include only Wyoming County veterans who died in combat, Lester explained. County veterans who died in the Civil War, World War I and II, Korea, Vietnam, and Middle Eastern conflicts will all be honored.
Five hundred black bricks will be included in the commemorative wall, each honoring a veteran – even those who do not or have never resided in Wyoming County.
The design will allow another 200 bricks to be added in the future as money becomes available, Lester said.
At the present time, only 70 bricks, of the original 500, remain available for $100 each. The memorial bricks include the veteran’s name, rank, military branch, and years of service. Forms are available from the veterans.
The bricks also include two honoring the county’s first settlers, John Cooke and Capt. Ralph Stewart, who fought in the Revolutionary War.
The memorial was designed in black to coincide with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., Lester noted. He visits the memorial annually.
“When you touch it, it touches you back,” Lester said. “When families come to see their loved ones’ names, it will touch them back.”
He hopes the county memorial will evoke the same emotions for veterans and their families.
“We want it to be healing, not only for service members, but for their families,” Lester emphasized.
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The idea was first discussed in November, Lester said, adding that the money was raised in less than seven months.
The project is spearheaded by the Veterans Support Group in partnership with the Disabled American Veterans, Mullens American Legion Post, and Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Lester said through the efforts of the combined groups, they conducted 10 car stops across the county, hosted a car show and golf tournament, as well as collected donations.
“The community has stood behind us,” Lester emphasized.
He said, without community support, they could not have raised the money in less than seven months.
Additionally, Sens. Sue Cline, R-Wyoming, and Rollan Roberts, R-Raleigh, recently presented organizers with a $10,000 state grant which will be used to construct the adjacent parking area.
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Construction has begun. The trees have been cut and the site has been leveled, according to Bill Elkins, one of the organizers. Footers have also been dug.
Easy access is one of the main features of the project, Lester explained.
The memorial is located alongside state Rt. 10, across from Gilliland Park and the Veterans Flag Memorial in Oceana. New flags will also be raised at the Flag Memorial, Lester said.
There are memorials on the courthouse lawn in Pineville, but it is difficult for older veterans to get to them.
“This will be right off Rt. 10 – which runs from Logan to Princeton,” he said.
“We hope it will be a great thing for our community and county,” he said.
Additionally, the group is working to have the road by the memorial, and through Oceana, designated as the Veterans Memorial Highway.
The group is also working with the West Virginia Division of Highways to obtain a permit for the property as well as the Veterans Flag Memorial, located directly across the road, next to Gilliland Park.
“This is something that helps us heal,” Lester said previously, “and honors those who lost their lives in combat.
“We’re trying to honor those who gave so much for this country.”
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The Veterans Support Group meets each Tuesday at 10 a.m. in the First Baptist Church basement in Oceana. All veterans are welcome.
To purchase a brick, contribute to the project, or for more information, contact Denny Lester, Veterans Support Group, at 304-923-7803 or Bill Elkins, DAV, at 304-953-3200.