JACKSON – It’s been a grassroots, volunteer-driven operation from the start. Funded by donations of time and money and labor, the Veterans Memorial Garden has slowly but surely been realized by its founders, veterans Kenneth Bressi and Charles Garofano. Their vision is to create a memorial to all veterans who have served.
Now they are moving to the next phase of their vision.
The Garden, a 501c3 nonprofit, is raising funds for its five-column, 52-ton granite monument that will stand to honor all five branches of the U.S. Military: Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard. The monument, which will stand 18 feet tall and stretch 21 feet across, was designed by PDRdesigns LLC, located in Lakewood.
The estimated cost is $300,000. A GoFundMe page was established by Kimberly Taylor on May 18. At press time, $600 had been donated.
The Garden officers and trustees stressed that all money raised goes toward the projects and upkeep of the memorial.
The footing for the moment, a six-foot deep concrete slab, has already been paid for and laid. Bressi called that a “big step” in the process. Visitors to that monument will be able to see the lake and woods beyond the monument.
Bressi said at some point after the monument is completed, pavers of all sizes will be laid in front of it. Now, the public can purchase engraved pavers that are placed by the five flag poles at the site.
“So now it’s time for a big push,” he added, saying the Garden is sponsoring an off-grounds 50/50 raffle with three winners, which is available by contacting one of the officers. The drawing is October 14 at the dance, held at the AMVETS Post 2 each year.
The Veterans Memorial Garden prides itself on being a memorial to all veterans, whether they served in war or peace times, whether they gave the ultimate sacrifice or came home to their families.
Garden members recently received a phone call that Bressi called “heart-warming.”
“I’m talking to this kid, Charlie is speaking to his mother,” Bressi recalled. The young man’s father had an aneurysm five years ago, and on the operating table had a stroke. The father recently died. He was a decorated Vietnam veteran.
“They asked if we would give them permission to have a private service that they can dedicate to him up at the memorial. The father always wanted to go there, he liked it. They liked going up there,” Bressi said. “When you hear stuff like that, calls like that keep you going.”
Garofano and Bressi have worked on this memorial site for about 10 years. Between donations, in-kind contributions and other volunteer work, the existing memorial has cost about $300,000.
“We’re hoping to get the monument up—it’s a year process to get the monument—in the next three years,” Bressi said. The company they are working with will install the monument in phases.
The Garden has no debt and will not go into debt to build the memorial.
The GoFundMe page can be found at gofundme.com/lets-build-this-monument.