I know Memorial Day was almost three months ago, but since I was not blogging at that time I could not very well tell about the wonderful day we all had in Oakman. The weather was a little iffy. Rain was threatening most of the day. A bank of clouds would roll in, the wind would pick up and we all wondering what would happen if it did rain. However, the sun would come back out and the breeze had cooled the air down somewhat.
Anyway, to the event of the day. It would probably be a good idea to go back about a year or so and bring everyone up to date on how this day came to be. It seems a couple of high school boys in the agribusiness class came up with the idea to make a monument to the veterans from Oakman that had been killed in war. They thought they could construct it out of some good grade of plywood and it would do for some years. Some other people heard about the project and minds began to come together, primarily from veterans.
The first meeting was held in the latter part of the summer 2007 and things began to roll in a hurry. Some of the men got together (once the site was located and approved) and began to cut some trees, have the stumps ground up and then the site prep started. There was grading to do, leveling to do, water lines run, electricity put in and the list went on and on. As other people in the town saw the work going on, the talk picked up. Soon others helped and the donations began to come in the the school or some of the men.
Now mind you, these veterans were not going to settle with just a plywood board. No sir. These men wanted something that would last years after they were gone and children not yet born could see. They designed a park that was patterned after one that is being built in East Tennessee. This one is no where as large as that one will be, but it is just as impressive.
There is an all-weather flag that flys 24/7 and it is lighted at night. Behind that are four monuments, one for each of the wars - WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam. Fortunately, so far we have not lost anyone to the Iraqi conflict. On each of these markers are listed the men from Oakman that gave their lives in each of these wars. Directly behind and to the middle of these is the Freedom Tower. It is an obelisk with each of the four freedoms we are privileged to have - freedom of religion, freedom of want, freedom from fear and freedom of speech. Behind the Freedom Tower is the monument dedicated to all veterans both living and dead whether death came as a result of the war or from natural causes. At the base of this monument around all sides are brick pavers that have been bought either in memory of or in honor of these veterans. This part is an on going project.
The agribusiness class has taken the upkeep of the park as their project. They will maintain the shrubbery, grass and flowers. The Beta Club members wrote statements in tribute to these veterans and to our heritage as Americans. These statements are placed on the back of each of the front markers, on all four sides of the Tower, on front and back of the Veteran's marker. Placed on the retaining wall are several more markers all containing statements from these students.
Finally, May 26th came and a great turn out of several hundred people came. The high school band provided patriotic music, The FFA officers led the Pledge, the Honor Guard presented a 21 gun salute, taps was played, a student sang the National Anthem accompanied by the band and we had speakers by some very prominent people. Among these were Mr. Julian Davidson, a graduate of Oakman High School who has a building name in his honor at the Flight Center in Huntsville. The key note speaker was Major General Alice Astefan (ret.), also a graduate of Oakman, one of seven children from the same family that all served in the military and at one time the highest ranking female in all the branches of the military. And who said small, rural high school can not produce high quality graduates?
Mr. Davidson made a statement that really brought it all home to the people that had worked so hard on this project. He said that he lived in Huntsville, a city probably at least 50 times as large as Oakman and they did not have anything there to compare to this.
I guess I was the proudest when my husband and a veteran was asked to do most of the speaking for the day as to explaining the various aspects of the park. He did such a wonderful job and received many compliments for it.
Oh, by the way, the rain did come but it was after everything was all over.
Even today there are people stopping to look at the monuments. A young man was passing the park on the day of the dedication and stopped to see it. He had just recently returned from deployment to Iraq. Those that were there and saw him said that as he walked around viewing everything that he just broke down and cried. Isn't that what it's all about? We can never let our men and women not know how much their sacrifices mean, even if we oppose the war(s).