ROCKINGHAM — Veterans’ groups will unveil a new statue, the Fallen Soldier Battlefield Cross, during a Memorial Day celebration scheduled Saturday at the Richmond County Veterans Memorial Park.
“This statue stands for all of the fallen soldiers of the past,” said Larry Evans, quartermaster of Veterans of Foreign Wars Rockingham Post 4203. It features a pair of combat boots, an M-16 rifle and dog tags, crowned with a Kevlar helmet.
The black marble base contains a plaque that details what each element represents shows service medals from World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars and the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Under the base is a 4-foot red circle that Evans said represents the blood shed by American servicemen.
“This has been a dream of mine since I got out of the military,” said Evans, a veteran of the Vietnam War. The Forsyth County native said that out of five graduates from his high school, he was only one of two who came back.
“I promised their parents I’d do everything I could to keep their memory alive” he said.
The privately funded memorial was originally estimated to cost $10,000, but Evans said it wound up being closer to $15,000.
“That’s a direct result of people and business in the community making donations, both material and financial,” he said.
Three veterans — representing WWII and the Vietnam and Afghanistan wars — will unwrap the statue during Saturday’s ceremony. Evans said anyone with dog tags from the different war eras is welcome to place them on the memorial, as well as pictures of fallen loved ones killed in action.
Evans said the event, which begins at 11 a.m., was scheduled for Saturday so more people would be able to attend. Speakers include Bill Thien, the VFW’s national commander-in-chief, VFW state commander Ernie Allis and U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson.
The ceremony will also feature a wreath-laying by local veterans’ clubs. Singer Michael Boney will perform the national anthem and an original song titled “A Helmet on the Butt of a Gun.”
AMVETS will conduct the folding of the flag with a speaker describing the significance of each of the 21 folds. The event will conclude with a playing of Taps and a 21-gun salute to the fallen.
Organizers will provide a meal of hamburgers, hot dogs and various sides following the ceremony at the VFW hall.