The Military Honor Garden at Hunter Park has officially opened. Local elected officials, veterans and partners who made the honor garden possible celebrated the opening with a ceremony Saturday, which was appropriately Veterans Day.
“It feels great. It’s wonderful that it is finally open. We’re so happy with the results and we couldn’t thank all the people who were involved, all those who gave, all those who volunteered, all who came and participated with us [enough],” Keep Douglasville Beautiful Executive Director Chan Weeks said.
The garden opened almost 17 months after its groundbreaking in the summer of 2016. The honor garden was inspired by the tree it’s built in front of. The tree honors Staff Sgt. Joshua Bowden, a fallen soldier from Douglas County who died serving his country in Afghanistan in 2013.
“We thought, ‘Why just plant a tree?’ We need something that represents how we as Douglas County citizens, Douglasville citizens, feel about our community as far as men and women serving the military and how much that means to us. They’re putting their lives on the line. They’re sacrificing so much, by being away from families,” Weeks said.
Some of the elected officials in attendance included Douglasville council members Christopher Watts, Mark Adams, Mayor Pro Tem Larry Yockey, Richard Segal, and Lashun Burr-Danley. Douglasville Police Department Chief Gary Sparks and Douglas County District Attorney Brian Fortner were also in attendance. Elected officials who are also veterans including Douglasville City Manager Marcia Hampton, Douglasville Mayor Rochelle Robinson, and Douglas County Commission Chairman Romona Jackson Jones were thanked and expressed their own appreciation for fellow veterans.
“This is a moment in time that will go down in history for current and future generations,” Jones said after the ceremony. “This is a special moment for me particularly serving in the Army for three years and then serving as a United States Marine Corps wife for 19 years. So I understand the meaning of this day, very passionate and led with much conviction to support it.”
After a brief ribbon cutting on the brisk Saturday morning, the ceremonies moved indoors at the Boys & Girls Club basketball gym. Brunch, snacks, and coffee were offered to the attendees as they piled into the gym. Every table present had at least one family sitting at it. The Christian Community Orchestra Ensemble performed patriotic tracks like “God Bless America” and “Anchors Aweigh.”
Steve Farris gave a keynote speech on what appreciation for veterans means and how citizens should approach veterans.
KDB Board Chairman Paul Laseter, who played a key role in getting the honor garden built, wrapped up the ceremony talking about what he hopes the garden will mean to veterans.
“Our non-negotiable message to the service men and women in the past and present, and their families is clear,” Laseter said in his final statement. “We acknowledge your service and sacrifices, although we may truly know what your sacrifices were. We honor your contributions to our nation and community. We respect your willingness and courage to give of yourselves for the benefit of people whom you may never meet.”
Laseter’s hopes were confirmed by Retired Air Force Sgt. Rick Cowan, who served on active duty 1966-1970 and with the International Guard from 1988-2006. Cowan stood at the ribbon cutting ceremony with pride, a vest full of badges and a blue veteran's cap.
“It’s nice for people to recognize veterans now because when I came back from overseas, things weren’t so friendly,” Cowan said. “So this is wonderful. Had a great turnout today and it’s very nice here. We look forward to enjoying the park.”