Service shows need for Chapel Hill veterans memorial, organizer says

mschultz@newsobserver.comMay 27, 2013 

'I think it's good way to give back and show love for the veterans who served my country,' says Trevor Vook, 13, an eighth-grade student from Githens Middle School in Durham. Vook, with Boy Scouts Troop 505, played taps at Chapel Hill Memorial Cemetery on Monday, May 27, 2013, during a service held by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9100 in Chapel Hill.

MARK SCHULTZ — mschultz@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

— Volunteers placed more than 450 American flags on veterans’ graves at Chapel Hill Memorial Cemetery on Saturday.

On Monday, as a group gathered on a small plaza to honor those who died serving their country, shoulder-high hedges blocked the view of almost all of them.

Even bugler Trevor Cook, 13, of Durham was hidden as he played taps, standing on the other side of the shrubs a few feet from the group.

The obscured view of the cemetery grounds off Fordham Boulevard is one reason veterans and their supporters are now raising money to replace the plaza with a permanent Veterans Memorial of Chapel Hill. The Town Council approved an initial plan last month.

“The plaza is quite old,” said Lee Heavlin, commander of Chapel Hill’s VFW District 6 and American Legion Post 6.

“The hedges were very small. They’re very large now,” he explained. “You can’t see out there.”

The memorial, which will take $200,00 to $300,000 to build, will replace the bushes with trees to provide a shaded courtyard where visitors can get out of the sun. There will be a flagpole and five stone markers representing each of the armed services.

Monday’s service at the cemetery including the reading of names of veterans who have recently died and the ringing of a bell for each one. Activities continued at the Legion Post down the road, where Iwo Jima survivor Bud Hampton spoke and historical memorabilia of women in the military was on display.

Originally known as Decoration Day and observed May 28, Memorial Day was renamed by Congress and moved to the last Monday in May beginning in 1971 to create a three-day weekend.

“I hate that,” said Heavlin, a master chief in the Navy who served from 1996 to 1993. “People get so focused on having a (long) weekend, often they forget it’s about honoring the veterans.”

Members of Veterans of Foreign Wars C. V. Cummings Chapel Hill Post 9100 and American Legion Post 6 are raising money for the memorial now. For more information or to make a donation, go to chapelhillmemorial.org.

Schultz: 919-932-2003

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