Henry James once said “I think patriotism is like charity - it begins at
home.” On Nov. 11, Veterans’ Day, 2008, hundreds of citizens from the
surrounding area attended the celebration of a long-overdue salute to our
veterans to honor their service and sacrifice. The Kingsport Veterans Park and
Memorial had been completed.
The Veterans Memorial in Kingsport is located at the front of J. Fred Johnson Park on Fort Henry Drive. The
City of Kingsport leased the land on which the memorial was built to Kingsport
Tomorrow, Inc., for the construction phase, which began on July 21, 2008.
The centerpiece of the memorial is a square plaza of
white granite with six 7-foot-tall black granite tablets, one for each war from
World War I to Operation Iraqi Freedom and two for World War II. The names of
the 370 Kingsport area residents killed in these wars are inscribed on one side
of each tablet, and, on the other side, is a map of the theatre of operations
as it looked at that time in history. Granite benches for visitors’ reflection
are placed around the perimeter of the plaza. One large lighted American flag
stands guard above the memorial plaza.
“This is the only memorial in Sullivan County which
lists the individual names of those who (were killed in these wars),” as well
as living veterans, said Sam Jones. "It is considered ‘sacred ground’ by
veterans because it is important to have a central location to honor and pay
tribute to those who made this country great.”
Jones is a member of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 979, which
works closely with AMVETS, the American Legion and Korean War Veterans. These
individuals assume responsibility to change the flags, keep the area clean, and
coordinate events at the memorial.
“The Vietnam veterans also give talks to students about the Vietnam War.
We often bring pieces of gear and equipment with us so they can feel how heavy
the jackets and packs were, to make history come alive,” he said.
The Vietnam Veterans were also instrumental in raising $50,000 for the
A monument recognizing each of the branches of the United States Armed
Services is included, as well as a “purpose” monument. There are also four
massive rough granite elements placed beside the two entrances into the
memorial plaza. Project designer, architect Jim Henderson, proposed the
boulders to symbolize the extreme conditions of war in which the 370 soldiers
gave their lives.
Leading into the memorial plaza from both sides are two white granite Walks
of Honor, bordered in blue. Each Walk of Honor is six feet wide and about 60
feet in length. The walkways are bordered by large red granite slabs, scored by
pavers, each bearing the name and personalized information of an American
veteran. The pavers include veterans who are alive and deceased.
The planned expansion project calls for the addition of four blue
granite benches on the corner of the plaza. An additional 382 red granite
pavers will also be added around a 950-square foot seating plaza located
adjacent to the existing memorial.
“To make this project a reality,
$150,000 needs to be raised from the community,” according to Susan LaGuardia,
Executive Director of Kingsport Tomorrow. “The sale of the pavers will generate
$76,000, plus we have some funds in the bank. Tax-deductible donations are
still being taken to fund additions and upgrades at the site.”
Tomorrow sold all of the original pavers by May 2008. Since the original
project could only include so many, people who did not get in were put on a
waiting list until the second phase of the project could move forward, a phase
that had always been a part of the original plan for the memorial. People on the waiting list are currently being contacted. If there are
pavers left, the sale will be opened up to other interested individuals. Each
paver is $200 and includes the name of the soldier and some brief information.
Sales are scheduled to end May 30.
Either way, it
will bring an additional 382 names to the memorial - a
place designed to honor, remember and support those who served.
Donations may be mailed directly to: Kingsport Tomorrow, 301 Louis
Street, Suite 303, Kingsport, TN 37660.