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Veterans Memorial Parks

All over the Upper East Side of Texas communities pay tribute to veterans with statues of granite and stone, markers, plaques, flag poles, and more in grateful appreciation for their service to America.

High schools dedicate plaques to former students killed in service, cemeteries erect monuments to fallen soldiers all the way back to the Civil War, and county courthouses have scrolls of names of soldiers that once lived in their towns.

“America’s Most Decorated Soldier,” Audie Murphy, is commemorated in his hometown of Greenville with a 10-foot tall bronze statue by Gordon Thomas. Behind that are granite tablets listing the names of residents of Hunt County who gave their lives in World Wars I and II.

Hawkins in Wood County has a Veterans Memorial Park dedicated to residents who served in the armed forces in conflicts dating back to the Revolutionary War. A memorial wall lists their names. On a pole in the center of a nearby small pond is an AH-1 Cobra helicopter that served in Vietnam from 1970 to 1973.

Van Zandt County has three veterans parks — one in Grand Saline, one in Wills Point and the newest and largest is in Canton.

The Van Zandt County Veterans Memorial Park in Canton was created with landscaping, winding sidewalks, and a pavilion for events, making it an inviting place for family members and other visitors to spend comforting time paying tribute to their fallen soldiers.

Paris, Texas, is home to the Red River Valley Veterans Memorial dedicated to all from a five-county area who have died as a result of their military service. Still under construction the memorial garden is set to have 12 granite-clad tablets inscribed with soldier’s names encircling the central flagpole.

One outstanding Veterans Memorial Park in Northeast Texas is in Sulphur Springs. It shares the downtown grounds with the Hopkins County Courthouse, an award-winning building designed by J. Gordon Riley and built in 1894 and restored in 2003.

A statue of a soldier and several benches were placed on the grounds about a decade ago. Then, a group of veterans and other citizens began talking about the need for a memorial park to honor veterans. Those talks went on for some time and then one of their beloved sons, 24-year-old U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Michael “Chad” Lloyd, was killed in Iraq in 2006.

“That propelled us on,” said Clayton McGraw, chairman of the Hopkins County Veteran’s Memorial Committee. “Now’s the time.”

McGraw approached local engineer Don Roundtree with Tandem Consulting who brought in TBG Partners in Dallas as the architects. It’s been a work in progress for about seven years now and although there are still a few finishing touches to do, the park today is a stunning display of granite walls, etched pictures, flags, 12-foot waterfalls, and even a kiosk where visitors can learn more about the veterans.

It’s statement of purpose is ““To perpetuate the memory of our veterans who have served their country with honor:  That their dedication, deeds, and sacrifice be a constant source of motivation toward greater accomplishment and patriotism.”

The seven granite walls, each weighing about 40,000 pounds, McGraw said, contain the names of veterans and at the top of each is a single word: Freedom, Honor, Service, Sacrifice, Valor, Respect, and Courage.

Seven flags represent five branches of the military, POW-MIA (prisoner of war, missing in action), and a Texas flag.

Dallas-based artist Eliseo Garcia is set to have a sketching done by Veterans Day, November 11, on the back wall of the memorial, McGraw said. The likeness comes from a photograph of actual soldiers getting off a troop train during World War II. It includes the depot on Church Street and will have a soldier depicted of every branch of the military.

McGraw said the committee has one more piece they want to add to the park.

“After the first of the year, we will have an eternal flame at the end of the back wall,” he said. “It will be black granite and 90 inches high so kids can’t get to it.”

The memorial committee is holding a special event at 11 a.m. November 11 at the memorial. General Charles Wilson will speak and the General Tommy Franks traveling museum will be on hand. For more information, call 903.439.7410. To learn more about Sulphur Springs go to www.visitsulphurspringstx.org.

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