In honor of those who have died in active military service, the United Veterans of Blount County will host the 52nd annual Blount County Memorial Day program on Saturday, May 28 with a reception at 10 a.m. and ceremony at 11 a.m. During this event outside the Blount County Courthouse, a groundbreaking will take place for the new Blount County War Dead Memorial Plaza.
The memorial has a rich history. Over 50 years ago on Memorial Day Weekend, the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 76 dedicated the new War Dead Memorial to the fallen heroes of Blount County and their families. The original memorial, which holds a bronze statue of a soldier, was cast in Italy and dedicated in 1965. Over time the memorial began to deteriorate, resulting in a hazard in need of restoration. Members of the community joined local veterans to form a committee to address the rebuilding of the memorial; many of the veterans were descendants of the original committee in 1965.
The committee enlisted the expertise of Red Chair Architects, a full-service architecture and design firm based in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Hickory Construction, Inc. a licensed general contractor, to lead the project. This is not the first memorial Hickory has been selected to build. The company built the Ft. Craig Memorial and Bicentennial Park Memorial, both located on the Maryville-Alcoa Greenway.
Hickory has also volunteered to make an in-kind donation to the Blount County War Dead Memorial Plaza, aiding in reaching the $200,000 goal to fund the project.
“We are honored to be selected to build this historic memorial that will be a lasting tribute to the heroes that so valiantly served our country. The groundbreaking is a momentous occasion and celebration as these lives are remembered and a new Blount County landmark arises,” said Hickory Construction President Burke Pinnell.
The vision for the memorial is more than a monument; it will be a plaza incorporating all four monuments on the courthouse lawn and a bench to sit and reflect. The bench will also hold a time capsule with mementos of both the current build and 1965 build.
The Veterans Walk of Honor, a permanent commemorative walkway lined with bricks engraved with the names of honored men and women who have served our country, will also be incorporated into the memorial. Anyone who has served honorably in the Armed Forces, or is currently on active duty, is eligible.
The groundbreaking for the Blount County War Dead Memorial Plaza is just one element of this year’s Memorial Day program. The program honoring deceased veterans will also include the lowering of colors to half-staff, pledge of allegiance, scripture reading, placement of flowers, firing squad salute and raising of the colors to full-staff.
This year’s keynote speaker is Clayton Narveson of the United States Marine Corps. Narveson was a 21-year-old Marine gunner when the American flag was raised on Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi during World War II. A resident of Blount County, Narveson will address attendees at the event.
Members of the community are encouraged to attend the program and groundbreaking to honor our community’s fallen heroes. Bricks may be purchased for installation in the Veterans Walk of Honor to honor the memory of loved ones. Profits from this fundraiser will go directly to the War Dead Memorial rebuilding.
More information on the Blount County War Dead Memorial and the Veterans Walk of Honor, including the purchase of commemorative bricks, can be found at www.blountwarmemorial.com.