Commitment to honor veterans moves forward
BY ESTHER MCCOY
SMITHFIELD – The commitment to “honor a veteran” through inscribed bricks has taken off for the Jefferson County Veterans at the Fort Friendship Veterans Memorial Museum at Friendship Park. Now the center stone plaque has been added to the winged columns due to the abundance of bricks purchased to honor veterans living or deceased.
“It exceeds our original expectations. We have installed 220 honor bricks and now the polished, granite center plaque, with the engraved American flag has been installed,” said William Smythe, commander, said.
The wall with the engraved bricks was on exhibit for Memorial Day. Then work was carried on in steps throughout the summer, with members and volunteer craftsmen, including members of the local carpenters union, performing the tasks.
The project has received financial assistance from the Jefferson County commissioners, as well as donations for bricks from individuals. Also, volunteers from the county veterans group and other craftsmen in the county assisted.
The idea of the honor wall came after the late Eugene Omaits; Fred McGee, a Purple Heart medal recipient; and Ed Waldman, honored Korean War veteran, came back from Washington, D.C., with the dream of a museum in mind. “They begged and borrowed to get it started,” Smythe remembered.
Money from the county’s piggyback tax was used to get it started and tanks, air planes, Howitzer guns and other military equipment were purchased- and the museum was on its way in 1995, according to officials.
After transforming an area of Friendship Park into a “walk through the past” from the ideas of Omaits, Jay Kolenc, Domenick Topazio, Gene Parsons and others, the brick honor wall was the next step in the plans.
With inspiration for the wall by Kolenc, Paul and Charlie Greene and Smythe, Jim Branagan, county engineer, redesigned some of their ideas and a basic structure came into being. Steve Vukelic was responsible for donating time to dig the footer.
The dedication of the honor wall is planned on Veterans Day, with services to be held at the Fort Friendship Veterans Museum.