GARNER — After seven years of planning and more than five months of construction, the town’s Veterans Memorial in Lake Benson Park is ready.
The town will dedicate its new memorial at 10 a.m. Saturday. In addition, the town and the Rand’s Mill Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution will host a wreath-laying ceremony tonight at 7 p.m.
The memorial consists of light gray slabs commemorating North Carolina’s contributions to various U.S. conflicts, one for each decade, attached to rich, clay-colored supporting slabs. On one side of the pathway, tall slabs describe the conflicts, while opposite them smaller slabs list the names of Garner residents who died in each one.
Retired brigadier general and current N.C. Secretary of Transportation Tony Tata will be the keynote speaker. Tata served as superintendant of the Wake County Public School System from 2010 to 2012 and as chief operating officer of the District of Columbia Public Schools for a year before that. He retired from a 28-year military career in 2009.
Other veterans also will speak and be honored at the ceremony. Garner elected leaders have vowed to take minimal roles at what they say is not a place for political speeches.
Most of the $500,000 needed to build the memorial was raised through donations from individuals, businesses, civic clubs and veterans groups, and organizers had all but about $11,000 in hand this week. Garner Veterans Memorial Committee vice president Faye Gardener said she hoped the project could be fully funded by Saturday.
“Who knows, we might have a donor that decides to help us do that before Saturday,” Gardner said. “We’re actually working on doing that.”
In addition to donations, about $120,000 was raised from the sale of 822 dedicated bricks – selling for $125 and $200 – to be installed as part of the memorial. Another $25,500 came from dedications for 17 of the memorial’s 20 benches sold at $1,500 each.
The Garner Veterans Memorial also received $25,000 from the town and $50,000 from the Wake County Board of Commissioners.
The Garner Veterans Memorial Committee, which was formed in 2006 to plan a structure to honor the town’s veterans, had said it would take out a loan to complete the project if necessary. In any case, the nonprofit intends to continue selling bricks after the dedication, Gardner said.
“We’re anticipating that the remaining brick orders that come in will cover the cost of the memorial,” Gardner said.