A site has been chosen for an Orange County Veterans Memorial and now fundraising efforts are underway to help make that vision a reality.
“The beauty of this is that we have all theses old trees here,” Lee Heavlin said in describing the wooded plot adjacent to the Southern Human Services Center off of Homestead Road, where the Veterans Memorial will eventually sit.
Heavlin is the fundraising chairman for the Orange County Veterans Memorial and former post commander of the American Legion Post No. 6 in Chapel Hill.
“It’s a walkway with wheelchair access,” said describing the plan for the memorial. “And there’ll be a park area with paving stones and walls to kind of give it a border.”
Heavlin said a portion of the lot was being “redeveloped so you’ll be able to see the flagpole and part of the monument from the road.”
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Heavlin said it was important to those in the planning process that the work would not alter the land that will house the memorial.
“We can nicely do this without hurting the soil and the trees and give the people a place that they can go to,” Heavlin said. “The senior center at the bottom of the hill – that road will be realigned a little bit – there will be a walkway coming from there up.
“So they’d have a nice place to go walk too, to expand on what we already have.”
Heavlin said this placement will allow for calm reflection for visitors to the site.
“It’s easily accessible from many places,” Heavlin said. “And when you go here, it’s a park. It’s going to be an elegant-looking thing.
“We’re not losing trees. These trees will all stay. And these [are] well over 100 years old.”
Heavlin said, now that the site has been chosen, they are turning their attention to raising money.
“What we really need today, ideally, is $5,000,” Heavlin said. “If we could find a benefactor, someone in Chapel Hill said, ‘Hey, I want to make a difference, and I’m not looking to get my name on a wall somewhere. I just want to be there for the Veterans Memorial, and I would like to make a large contribution.’”
Heavlin said that money would continue funding the architecture work.
Once the Orange County Commissioners give final approval to the plans, which Heavlin said could come this fall, the group will be able to expand its fundraising effort. Heavlin said that would include opportunities to purchase commemorative bricks and other features to be included in the overall memorial.
He added that if everything went according to plan, a groundbreaking could be held around Veterans Day this November with construction beginning next spring.
Heavlin said this monument will be a benefit to the entire community, including veterans and future generations learning about Orange County’s history.
“It’s all about legacy,” Heavlin said. “Do we want to remember those who served our country? Not everyone goes to combat. Not everyone has to go overseas. For every one person who’s on the combat line, there [are] probably 10 people supporting them.
“This is for everybody. This is for people from years ago. This is for people who are serving today. It’s our way of saying to the veterans who’ve returned – or came here for the first time – that we, as citizens of Chapel Hill [and] Orange County, are proud of their service. And we honor them.”
You can learn more about getting involved and donating to the Orange County Veterans Memorial here.