02/13/06 — Plans in place for memorial to servicemen

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Plans in place for memorial to servicemen

By Turner Walston
Published in News on February 13, 2006 1:47 PM

PIKEVILLE -- Dennis Lewis wants the veterans who fought for his country to be recognized properly, and for five years he has worked to build a memorial to honor their sacrifices.

This year, that effort will come to fruition.

"We just can't do enough for them," Lewis said.

He is mindful of a quote by a friend, the late Col. James Hiteshew.

"He said 'Never forget the freedom that you enjoy has been purchased by someone else's sacrifice.' and that is exactly right," Lewis said. "The world is a better place because of the men of the U.S. Armed Forces, and it's a debt that I cannot pay. How do I pay a man for my freedom? All I can do is say 'thank you' and show it any way I can."

On Saturday, May 27, at the dedication of the new memorial, Lewis will get that chance. Scheduled to speak at the ceremony are U.S. Rep. Walter Jones and Lt. Col. David Brown, author of the book "Battle Lines," about his experiences in Vietnam. Lewis has asked the 2nd Division Marine Band of Camp Lejeune to perform, although they won't be able to confirm until 90 days prior to the ceremony.

Lewis said construction of what he calls the "All Wars, All Veterans Memorial" should begin early next month. The shrine will be 25 feet long and 10 feet wide, with each branch of the military represented by its service emblem.

Additionally, there will be a tribute to the fallen rescue personnel and civilians who died in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Also on the memorial will be a tribute to the animals that served in the military.

The total cost of the memorial is about $7,000, Lewis said. He sold meals on the last Friday of the month for seven months last year to help raise a portion of the money needed for the memorial. That $1,700 has been combined with private donations, including support from the Wayne County Veterans and Patriots Coalition and Harmony Lodge 340, AF and AM.

"We haven't quite raised the money to pay for everything, but I'm not worried about that," Lewis said. "The money will be there, I'm sure."

To help offset costs, Progress Energy donated electricity to keep the memorial's flag lit 24 hours a day. Woodmen of the World also donated a flagpole.

Monday night, Pikeville commissioners allocated Lewis $1,500 for the ceremony. That money will pay for transportation of band members and signs and supplies for the ceremony.

At the dedication ceremony, Lewis said he plans to have more than 2,500 crosses on display to represent the Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Larger crosses will represent military members killed in other war efforts.

Plans are in place for 5,000 balloons to be released during the ceremony, each bearing the POW/MIA logo and the names of the four servicemen from Wayne County still missing from Vietnam. Lewis is seeking volunteers to help fill balloons the night prior to the ceremony.

For more information or to volunteer to help with the ceremony, contact Lewis at 919-242-6625.