The remodeling of Alachua County’s “Walk Through Time” veterans memorial will start after Veterans Day.
The memorial, in Kanapaha Park at the intersection of Tower Road and Southwest 41st Place, shows U.S. military engagements from the American Revolution to Operation Enduring Freedom, including the Afghanistan War.
Visitors “walking through time” begin at the American Revolution monument. From there, each foot forward equals one year of history, and every 10 years there is a new tile. Each war has its own monument with bricks stacked on it — each brick representing 1,000 U.S. deaths.
The memorial is being remodeled to honor more veterans now and in the years to come.
“We’ve run out of room at the end of the monument,” said Don Sherry, former chairman of the Alachua County Veterans Advisory Board.
The Veterans Memorial Committee came up with an idea to downsize the tiles and monuments. By doing so, they will be able to add another 80 years that can be honored.
“We want to give credit to any future wars,” said Bob Gasche, an 88-year-old Iwo Jima survivor and Veterans Advisory Board member. “Hopefully there won’t be any, but I’m afraid there will be and this will give us space for an additional monument.”
Lack of space isn’t the only problem with the current memorial. Gasche listed other viable reasons for remodeling such as cracks in the tile, wearing of the granite and discoloration.
The project will cost about $170,000 to $180,000 to complete. The Community Foundation of North Central Florida donated $80,000, putting the project well on its way.
“We’ve already got close to a hundred thousand,” Sherry said.
Former Alachua County resident and Vietnam veteran John Deakins said the memorial can educate children who don’t know about the wars.
“I think it’s important because our children are not as informed as they should be,” said Deakins.
He recalled a time giving a speech when a young girl raised her hand and asked: What was Vietnam?
“We were considered, by most people, the lowest people on the face of the earth,” Deakins said about returning home after Vietnam. “I made a decision at that point if I ever got in the position to thank our Veterans, I would.”
Deakins had previously put himself in this position by serving on the Alachua County Veterans Advisory Board.
The memorial is not only visited by veterans. At Kanapaha Park, the memorial is surrounded by soccer fields, a roller skating rink, baseball fields, a basketball court, a playground and a scenic running path.
Rachel Nelson showed the memorial to her two daughters after they asked about it on their way to the playground.
“I think it’s very important for children to come so they can see our history and the people who have died for America,” Nelson said while her girls ran up and down the pathway, stopping at each monument to look closer.
Gasche said the current memorial’s tiles and monuments will be relocated to a place that will serve like a “garden of honor” so they can still be visited. Forest Meadows Funeral Home will assist in moving the monuments. There will be a procession with a sheriff’s patrol and a Calvary brigade.
“It is the veterans of Alachua County that are spearheading this move,” Gasche said.”It is such a privilege to work with them and to be part of this renovation that will bring us a memorial we will all be proud of.”
Those involved hope the new memorial will be unveiled Veterans Day 2014.