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It’s been a long time coming, but the 3,600-square-foot Blue Ridge Veterans Memorial is another step closer to being completed.
The city recently contracted with North Carolina Granite Corp. to provide and install memorial stones at the site by the end of October. The memorial stones will represent each of the military branches.
A dedication is to be held on Veterans Day, Nov. 11 at the memorial beside the Galax Public Library.
However, more funds are still needed to completely construct the memorial. Once the Blue Ridge Veterans Memorial is complete, it will also include 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; along with a three-tiered water fountain and reflecting pool; a large bronze globe and benches.
Frank and Sharon Plichta, who have been planning the site for the past few years and fundraising for the memorial for three years, are reaching out to World War II veterans, who will be the guests of honor at the dedication.
Because World War II veterans are aging, Frank Plichta said it’s a priority to make sure that they see the memorial make progress.
“We’re looking at every way we can to get the word out to the veterans,” said Plichta. “We want to demonstrate to the community that we’re making progress.”
Plichta and his wife both served in the military.
Plichta has invited politicians that represent the area and other speakers to say a few words on Veterans Day. The flag will be raised, the Pledge of Allegiance will be said and the National Anthem will be performed.
The memorial will be a place of reflection. With a globe in the center of the foundation, “this will be a place where dads can take their kids to show where they served,” said Plichta. “And the POW/MIA section will let families remember the loved ones that never came home.”
The City of Galax has provided the manpower to construct the foundation and electrical work at the memorial.
Funds have been received from donors and raised through the selling of hats, shirts, flags and engraved pavers.
The Plichtas have raised $115,000 so far to build the memorial. At least $80,000 more is needed to complete it.
The memorial can accommodate approximately 3,000 granite pavers. So far, 400 have been sold.
Engraved with information to commemorate the military service of those that have served and are serving, the granite pavers are a way families can honor and memorialize their family veterans, said Plichta.
Pavers are available in two sizes — 5-by-10 inches with three lines of text for $100 and 10-by-10 inches with six lines of text for $300.
The memorial honors all veterans from every era. Many ask if they can buy a paver for their loved ones that served during peacetime, he said. “The peacetime veterans are just as important. They were here providing the food supply, among other things. We couldn’t have done it without them.”
It warmed Plichta’s heart when little Nick Merdian, son of Stewart and Patti Merdian, donated all of his saved-up change to the memorial fund recently.
“He may not have had full understanding of what he was doing, other than helping the veterans, but he was willing to give all he had,” said Plichta. “It really touched my heart.”
Plichta gave Nick a T-shirt that says, “Got Freedom? Thank a Veteran.”
“People can thank a veteran by purchasing a paver or making a donation,” said Plichta, noting that donations are tax deductible. “And the pavers are a way to memorialize your family forever.
“Everyone has been helpful, and I’m amazed at the work the city has done.”
• Forms for ordering pavers are available by calling 238-9161. For more information, visit blueridgeveteransmemorial.com. The Plichtas are also working to create a database of all veterans in the area. So far, 3,600 have been entered into the system, even though there are as many as 11,000, according to the census. People can also visit blueridgeveteransmemorial.com to complete a veterans registry on family members. When the veterans registry is compiled by the Plichtas, it will be housed at the Galax Public Library.