The American flag will stand illuminated on a Homestead Road hill, a beacon to visitors seeking a place for reflection and contemplation, veterans memorial officials said this week.
Members of the Orange County Veterans Memorial Committee shared their vision Tuesday with the Orange County Board of Commissioners at the edge of a wooded site opposite the Southern Human Services Center.
Orange County has more than 6,000 veterans but no memorial. There is one on the UNC campus.
“We want it to be a place where any veteran can come and reflect back on his time in the military – a reflection of his life – and we want for the community to make it an educational experience of what the wars were all about,” said Jim Merritt, a former Chapel Hill Town Council member and Army veteran.
Chapel Hill resident and Navy veteran Bruce Runberg estimated construction could be phased in over a few years, but the land will be dedicated at 11 a.m. on Nov. 11 – the 98th anniversary of Armistice Day, when the Allies and Germany ended World War I.
Fundraising for the $300,000 project has begun. Organizers said donors also can buy and dedicate benches or bricks to loved one, or hold a fundraiser.
The memorial will be visible from the road under a planned expansion of the Southern Human Services Center campus. It will cover less than an acre and be completely accessible, project designer David Swanson said.
The site-inspired design shows sweeping walls of locally mined stone embedded with plaques and curving between the trees. It creates four “rooms”:
▪ A vestibule, representing patriotism and duty
▪ A larger stone retreat, representing service, honor and valor, for significant ceremonies
▪ A ceremonial flagpole space, representing sacrifice and freedom
▪ A space focused on family
“It’s going to be a wonderful location, taking advantage of the wooded area and being able to walk around and have benches and opportunities to just sit and contemplate,” Runberg said. “We will have areas where we can have some educational and historical information associated with the veterans.”
Merritt first raised the idea in 2009 when he served on the Town Council. The town’s concept plan for the Chapel Hill Memorial Cemetery on Legion Road ran into hurdles, however, and Commissioners Barry Jacobs and Renee Price brought the idea to the county last year.
Every generation should feel the memorial belongs to them, Price said.
“We didn’t want something that was going to be put up and be dismal and be a constant reminder of the horrors of war,” she said. “It’s also about the sacrifice of freedom and other aspects of the military (and) also hopefully a place of healing as well.”
How to help
Donations to the Orange County Veterans Memorial can be sent by check, payable to the Orange County Community Giving Fund. Include “Veterans Memorial” on the memo line, and mail to: Orange County Community Giving Fund, Financial Services, PO Box 8181, Hillsborough, NC 27278.
Get more information or make an online donation at ChapelHillVeteransMemorial.com/donations.