The Richmond County Veterans Memorial Park in Rockingham is a treasured park that is always in progress and Saturday it was honored after the man with the vision.
Past VFW Post 4203 Commander and Vietnam veteran Corey “Yank” Gibbon Jr. was surprised Saturday afternoon during a VFW ceremony dedicating the Richmond County Veterans Memorial Park in his honor, attendees said.
“I was tickled to death,” said Gibbon. “I didn’t think they would do anything like that.”
Gibbon holds a Purple Heart and has been disabled since his tour in Vietnam, that lasted 19 months and 26 days, he said. He was 18 when he enlisted in 1967, and he said “it wasn’t good.”
Gibbon later traveled to Washington, D.C., with his wife to see the Vietnam Memorial — the infamous wall of names. He brought a book back to Richmond County with him and in it were all the names on the wall. He and his wife went through the book more than six times, pulling out the names of people who died in the Vietnam War who were from Richmond County.
“I said, ‘I’m going to do something for them,’” said Gibbon.
Gibbon spoke to the owner of the land beside the Rockingham VFW, who donated the land to Gibbon. He then tore the building down that stood there with his backhoe. He began the work to make the park in 1998.
“On Nov. 10, 2000, we had the first ceremony dedication,” said Gibbon.
Gibbon said veterans raised $1,800 for the first stone on which names were placed. The stone came from a Rockingham company that has since left.
“Now we buy our stones from Custom Monument in Rockingham and they give us a good deal,” said Gibbon. He said the park now has 300 stones, and will continue to gather more. Anyone who has served in the military and is from Richmond County can be memorialized in the park.
Gibbon takes great pride in the park, and said he shares the feeling with visitors.
“We get a lot of people from out of town that stop by and brag on the park,” said Gibbon. “We have two ceremonies here a year and (various veteran organizations) take turns handling the ceremonies. It’s a nice place and we try to add to it.”
Gibbon said there are many private donors and contributors who have made the park what it is today, from people who have made small donations to people like G.R. Kindley, who was instrumental in placing signage on the highway for the park.
“I want to thank the past and present County Commissioners,” said Gibbon. “They help us so much. I also want to thank Lynn and Linda McCaskill, Larry Evans and Ilene who did the legwork for our park, Charles and Kathy Gainey and the Richmond County Shag Club. Thank you to all others who donated and worked to make the park what it is.”
According to Gibbon, upkeep of the park costs $3,000 annually, and contributions can be mailed to the VFW at 106 Old River Road, Rockingham.
— Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at email@example.com.