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After battling a lawsuit for the past few years regarding the placement of a veterans' monument, the City of Galax can now proceed with plans to help a group of local veterans and volunteers erect the Twin County Veterans Memorial at the Galax Public Library.
With the suit ending in the city's favor, Galax is moving forward with securing the services of a consulting engineer for technical design and cost estimates for the memorial designed by Todd Price, an artist from Elk Creek.
Also, Galax City Council approved Monday to have the memorial placed on public land, north of the library. The lawsuit alleged that the memorial was to be placed directly in front of the new library — not to the side — based on an attorney's understanding of the wishes of a late donor to the public library.
“Galax has a very long and rich history,” said City Manager Keith Holland on Monday. “This gives us the opportunity to honor those who have served”
Sharon Plichta, a council member and Army veteran, said that with people serving and losing their lives in the current war, Galax should start honoring those veterans having a connection with the Twin Counties.
When Plichta was on Galax City Council a few years ago, having a local veterans memorial came up as a possibility. Soon after, she started putting it into action, receiving support from volunteers and other veterans' groups who strongly believed in the idea.
“We're really excited about the city's support of this project,” said Plichta, who is heading the effort with her husband, Frank, also a Vietnam veteran.
“This is going to show the city's involvement in efforts to locate this to Galax.”
The memorial will not only be a place to remember and honor those who have served the country, but also a destination to celebrate Memorial Day and a place for parents and grandparents to take children and grandchildren to share stories about their ancestors and loved ones, Frank said.
Also, a giant floating globe can show children and others where family members have fought and served.
“It's a very emotional and special thing,” said Sharon. “I wouldn't trade my service for anything in the world. Veterans and those serving are all heroes to me, and this is something that really needs to get done.”
The Plichtas, volunteers and other veterans have been working to raise at least $300,000 to fund the construction of the veterans' memorial between the Galax Public Library and the Vaughan Building (former home of the public library). And, they've been maintaining a presence at all local events and festivals.
A fundraiser will be held monthly as a way to keep the memorial before the public eye and to maintain a rapid pace toward their goal.
Since the drive started in May, the city has set aside nearly $54,000; the Galax Rotary Club donated $1,500, which helped with startup expenses; and $16,000 has been raised through fundraisers.
One of the most successful fundraisers has been the sale of granite pavers, which will line the walkway in and around the monuments and include the name and information for those who serve or have served in the military.
The pavers are 5-by-10 inches for $100 or 10-by-12 inches for $300. The small stones weigh 8.5 pounds and are two inches thick. Veterans can be honored by buying a paver, which includes the veteran's rank, name, unit and/or other service data that can be sandblasted into the paver.
Frank Plichta said memorials evoke strong emotions, and even though it's not constructed yet, this one has already begun to leave impressions and stories behind.
At the Hillsville flea market last month, Plichta recalls a woman who strolled by looking at the examples of the granite paving stones. “She broke down in tears,” Plichta said. “'That's my grandpa's name,' she said.”
The woman immediately got on the phone and began calling family members, and the gentleman she was with asked to pick up the stone and embrace it in his arms. The woman found that her aunt had purchased the granite stone.
Granite stones have already been purchased in the names of those who have served in the American Revolution and the Civil War, Frank said.
And E&L Diamond in Galax has already purchased five granite pavers, recognizing five of its employees who have served in the military. “That's a commendable gesture and it's an example that other employers can follow,” said Frank.
The memorial will hold up to 4,500 of these paving stones.
An auction, chili luncheon and entertainment will be held Nov. 1 at 11 a.m. at Mount Vale United Methodist Church, located at 3350 Meadow Creek Road in Galax. The Plichtas are requesting donations for the auction, such as antiques, furniture, farm equipment, lamps, jewelry, rugs and other items.
A golf tournament fundraiser will be held May 16, 2009, at 9 p.m.. at the Galax Municipal Golf Course. The Plichtas are looking for sponsors and hope to have at least 20 teams.
Contact the Plichtas if you would like to volunteer, sponsor or donate door prizes.
“We're looking forward to talking to civic groups, businesses and churches and anyone that would like to know more,” said Frank. “We'll bring the model design and will discuss the information with groups.”
American Legion Post #245 monitors the donations and provides receipts, which can be used for tax deductible purposes.
A memorial mock-up was unveiled at the American Legion Post #245 meeting on May 2 and a scale model now rests at the Galax Municipal Building.
A pipe dream, Frank Plichta called it, but he's hoping to have the money raised and the memorial constructed in two years.
However, the Plichtas are highly anticipating the funds and the construction at a sooner date for the sake of aging World War II veterans.
“I'm so excited to get it built so the World War II veterans will be able to see the memorial,” said Sharon. “We want them to know that they are appreciated and loved”
The plans include a 3,600-square-foot memorial with three granite monuments — one in memory of those who served, one to honor those serving now and one to remember the prisoners of war and those missing in action.
The entrance features a 16-by-14-foot granite pillar, flanked by two flag poles. At the base is an opening representing the rising or setting sun and a three-tiered water fountain.
Six black granite pillars will be arrayed in circle to represent the six branches of the military, with each pillar to bear the branch insignia.
The large bronze globe on a stone table in the “honor” section of the memorial will provide geographical information for veterans to identify their areas of service. Also, a reflecting pool and fountain will be placed in the “memory” section.
The “POW/MIA” section includes an empty granite chair, the symbol for prisoners of war and those missing in action. The chair symbolizes their absence and waiting for their return home.
It's flanked by two granite benches, where individuals may sit and reflect the fate of their missing loved ones.
With a veteran father who is legally blind, artist Todd Price designed the memorial with the disabled in mind, with easy, level walkways and tactile finishes on the monuments that allow the visually impaired to see through touched.
Symbolism is spread throughout the memorial, featuring an eagle soaring free at the top of the memory and honor memorials, the angle of which signifies a soldier's salute, or the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains.
The use of circles represents life and death, life and eternity, and then and now. And the shapes of the pillars reach towards the sky, toward Heaven and God. The pillars are rough on the edges and shiny and polished on the surface to signify war and peace.
“I'm anxious to see it,” said Mayor C.M. Mitchell at Monday's council meeting. “This is truly an amazing design.”
• For more information about the fundraisers, to make a donation, order a granite paver or volunteer, call 233-2179 or 238-9161, send e-mail to email@example.com or see www.twincountyveteransmemorial.com.
Someone with a knowledge of computers is also needed to help with the memorial's Web site.
Make checks payable to the Veterans Memorial Fund, P.O. Box. 1023, Galax, Va. 24333.