New Veterans Park at the Atlanta History Center to be Dedicated on Memorial Day
ATLANTA, Georgia – On Memorial Day, Monday, May 27, 2013 at 5 pm, the newly expanded Veterans Park at the Atlanta History Center will be formally dedicated to all of the men and women who have served - and continue to serve - the United States of America. Funded by a generous grant from The Home Depot Foundation, Veterans Park at the Atlanta History Center was designed by award-winning landscape architect Mack Cain of Jacobs, and planned in cooperation with a steering committee of veterans from the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Originally conceived in 2000 with the help of the Atlanta Vietnam Veterans Business Association, Veterans Park began as a small garden honoring veterans from the Vietnam War. Much has changed since then and it was the right time to develop the dedicated area into a more comprehensive and inclusive Veterans Park.
In the early planning stages for the newly expanded Veterans Park, the committee determined that Veterans Park be designed not as a traditional veterans memorial, but as a unique gathering place encouraging reflection, personal connections to veterans, and a celebration of the lives of those who have sacrificed to secure our freedom.
The new pedestrian entrance off of West Paces Ferry Road and Slaton Drive leads visitors into Veterans Park, which includes seated areas, a soothing water feature, picnic tables, and free Wi-Fi. As visitors move through Veterans Park, seals representing each of the five military branches of services - Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard - are embedded in the ground to serve as reminders of our country’s ongoing dedication to the pursuit of freedom and liberty.
A cornerstone of the new Veterans Park, and perhaps the most poignant personal connection to our country’s military history, are the stories and oral histories of veterans featured on a series of panels throughout the Park. Through a partnership with the Library of Congress Veterans History Project, the Atlanta History Center has been collecting oral histories of veterans for over ten years. Each panel features a QR code – compatible with any smartphone - allowing visitors to easily access video files of veterans sharing their personal stories, memories, tragedies, and triumphs of their service to our country. Through the use of this technology, the History Center will be able to add veterans’ stories as they are collected in upcoming years, ensuring the voices of these veterans will be kept alive for generations to come.
During the public dedication ceremony on Monday, May 27, Lt. Colonel Richard A. Lester, US Army Retired, and a Vietnam helicopter pilot, will dedicate the park with a sacred soil ceremony. Soils from every major conflict in which our country has fought - including the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan - will be collected in a helmet worn by Colonel John Ruggles of the Fourth Infantry Division at Utah Beach on D-Day and then distributed on the grounds near the Veterans Park flag pole. In addition, soil from Germany, France, Italy, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iwo Jima, Saipan, Wake Island, Tarawa, Pelelui, Guam, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Korea, will be on display in the History Center while the remaining portion will be placed in a time capsule beneath the Seal of the United States located on the main walkway of Veterans Park.
Aside from The National Infantry Museum in Columbus, Georgia, the History Center will become only the second Georgia museum to host a scared soil ceremony of this nature.
“To have a sacred soil ceremony during the dedication is a unique opportunity, and one that will make Veterans Park truly grounded in history,” said Sheffield Hale, Atlanta History Center President and CEO. “The History Center is honored by this opportunity provided by our veterans.”
As part of their ongoing support of veterans initiatives, The Home Depot’s associate-volunteer corps, Team Depot, will provide labor and materials to build new picnic tables, plant shrubs and flowers, and spread mulch and pine straw around Veterans Park and the pedestrian walkway which leads up to Atlanta History Center’s main entrance.
“The Home Depot Foundation is proud to partner with the Atlanta History Center to expand Veterans Park,” said Kelly Caffarelli, President of The Home Depot Foundation. “We are honored to recognize and highlight the men and women who have so bravely served our country.”
The Atlanta History will continue collecting veteran’s oral histories – both active and retired - through its ongoing partnership with the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. For more information on participating in the Veterans History Project, email VeteransHistoryProject@AtlantaHistoryCenter.com.
In addition, military families are encouraged to sign up and share their personal family stories at StoryCorps at the Atlanta History Center through participation in StoryCorps’ Military Voices Initiative. The Military Voices Initiative records, shares, and preserves the stories of post-9/11 veterans, active-duty service members, and their families. For more information on the Military Voices Initiative, visit StoryCorps.org.
The Atlanta History Center is a proud participant in the Blue Star Museums, a collaboration between the National Endowment for the Arts, Blue Star Families, the Department of Defense, and more than 1,800 museums across America. As a Blue Star Museum, the Atlanta History Center will honor free admission to all active duty military personnel and up to five additional members of their families from Memorial Day, May 27 through Labor Day, September 2, 2013. Retired military receive free admission for up to two adults. For more information on planning your visit, admissions, directions, and hours of operations, visit AtlantaHistoryCenter.com.