By: Kristen Hegel
Just outside the Confederate Park on Main Street in Fort Mill, SC is an area that is being reserved for the soon-to-come Fort Mill Veteran’s Memorial Park. According to Fort Mill Town Manager, David Hudspeth, the project has been stuck in the planning stages for the past five years. The work on the park is far from being complete, and as of now there is no construction going on. So what is standing in the way of the Veteran’s Park being completed?
The lack of funding has prevented any construction on the project to begin. “We are currently putting together a package to spur corporate sponsors to donate funding to the park. Raising enough money to secure our plan designs and landscaping expenses is our top priority,” Matt Helms, Vietnam veteran and chairman of the Veteran’s Memorial Park committee, stated. The committee’s plans for the park consist of landscaping done by LandDesign, which will include a five-point star. Each point on the star will represent a branch of the military. At the center of the star, the committee plans to have a statue of a “doughboy,” which was the name for infantrymen during World War I. The statue is meant to pay tribute to Sergeant Tom Hall and Lieutenant James Dozier, two of Fort Mill’s most decorated veterans. On December 31, 1919, both Hall and Dozier received the Medal of Honor, but only Dozier was present because Hall was killed during a raid. Besides honoring the five main branches of the military, the committee also wants to honor the United States Merchant Marines, who weren’t recognized as veterans until 1988. During World War II, the Merchant Marines were responsible for all cargo being shipped overseas; they also had the highest causality rate.
“It will be a success if we get contributions from the community along with government, city, state or federal funds,” Helms explained. The estimated cost of the park is around $100,000, which is a fourth of the once projected cost at $400,000. Although the project is lacking funding, one thing the project isn’t lacking is enthusiasm. “I think it’s a very good thing to have, it’s something that we’re very excited about trying to create,” Hudspeth said. Helping out with the park is easy; the public can buy bricks for $75 dollars, and each will go to help pave the “Walk of Honor.” It will take about 900 bricks to complete the walkway, and so far 158 have been sold. According to Helms, the park will also include four benches priced at $1,000 each, three have been sold. None of the 8 flagpoles, priced at $15,000 each, have been sold yet.
The committee is asking citizens of Fort Mill to contribute to the cause so the park can reach completion sooner. “Any donations from the community would be huge for us,” Helms stated. “The political turmoil that surrounds every war shouldn’t be associated with our troops. Politics weren’t on our minds when we shipped out; we merely wanted to serve our country and protect its freedoms,” Helms added. To Helms, and the community, seeing the Veteran’s Memorial Park means more than just honoring soldiers. The park will be a reminder of the sacrifices made by the men and women of Fort Mill.