A Dream Becomes Reality: The NC Veterans Memorial
by Jo Cameron Jones
The project began with the dream of one man. Then a couple of friends joined in; a few more said, “Let’s do it!” and five years later a truly impossible dream came true.
Today there stands in the little town of Broadway an elegant, impressive North Carolina Veterans Memorial, breathtaking in its scope and beauty. The originator of this project, Dr. Eldon Sloan Jr., visited Warsaw VFW Post 9810 on Monday and told the story of the Memorial.
He was assisted with an impressive power point presentation created by Duplin Sheriff’s Deputy Eric Southerland, whose grandfather Sam was lost in World War II in Italy. Eric’s mother, Sammie Southerland, named for the father she never saw, is secretary of the Post 9810 Ladies Auxiliary and was instrumental in introducing the Memorial and Dr. Sloan to the post members.
“This veterans memorial is a place to gather; a place to remember,” Sloan said.
Those words are printed on the brochure the Broadway sponsors put out when they decided to make their memorial a tribute to all North Carolina veterans, not just those in the immediate locality.
Several years ago, Dr. Sloan, a local Broadway dentist, read a book filled with reactions of veterans and their families to the film Saving Private Ryan.
He was touched by the outpourings of over 30,000 veterans.
“Now I understand,” became a common theme of many family members who wrote. “I realized after reading that book that we called on an army of farmers, field workers, factory workers and students to save the world,” said Dr. Sloan. “I also realized how near we came to losing that war, and I felt profoundly grateful to those who had served.”
Sloan also realized how unappreciated, even scorned so many Vietnam veterans had been, and he felt a compelling urge to honor them - and all veterans of all wars.
He sat with friends and drew a sketch on a napkin about a possible memorial to such veterans, still on a small scale.
He took his idea to his VFW group and the idea took hold.
“And it was then that I discovered there was no North Carolina memorial to veterans,” he said. “Here and there small groups were honored, but nowhere was the honor universal and extensive.”
Sloan’s group pledged to build a North Carolina Veterans Memorial right there in Broadway, and they decided it would be large, impressive, worthy of the men and women they planned to honor.
The next thing Sloan knew, he and Donald F. Andrews Jr. were co-chairs of the NC Veterans Memorial Committee, and the project was off and running.
Broadway generously donated the land for the Memorial. Sloan’s group contacted all veterans groups across the state for support.
Countless businesses and patriotic individuals donated funds.
The NC General Assembly voted to provide $150,000 and eventually the Broadway group raised over half a million dollars for this project.
Today they are using the funds they continue to collect from those placing names on the wall to add further improvements to the site. “For example,” said Sloan, “we need an additional building for restrooms and dressing rooms for wedding parties and other events. “We have plans to extend the walls, add to the landscaping and provide adequate upkeep for the Memorial.”
Finally, the Memorial was ready to be dedicated, and Warsaw’s own favorite general, General Dan K. McNeill, spoke at the dedication service, and the 82nd band and chorus also performed.
The Memorial Pavilion
From a distance the Memorial resembles a lovely large gazebo.
As the brochure says, “The Memorial Pavilion is a beautiful example of classical architecture. “Large, tapered, round columns grace each corner of the brick octagonal base, which spans 24 feet in diameter. “Above the Doric columns are graceful arches and heavy crown molding, accentuating the design. “An elegant, vented clerestory highlights the copper roof.
“The pavilion floor is constructed with brick pavers laid in a pattern to complement the octagonal foundation. All this is edged with molded brick.
An inviting brick step entrance, as well as a handicap ramp affords easy access to the pavilion.”
Walkways are laid with brick pavers and memorial bricks.
There is a courtyard with a grassy lawn enclosed by a brick wall.
Additional landscaping includes park benches, a drinking fountain and picnic tables to encourage further use of the park.
In addition to the classically styled lamp posts, there is strategic lighting of the pavilion and furnishings.
Listing the Names
The most important part of the memorial is the listing of names of North Carolinians who have served this country in all wars at all times in American history in wartime and in peacetime.
Names of North Carolina veterans are inscribed in granite on an eight-foot-high memorial wall stretching the length of the Memorial.
Three flag poles are showcased to display flags representing the United State of America, the State of North Carolina, and one for those Missing in Action or Prisoners of War.
“The Memorial is not a somber place,” said Dr. Sloan. “It is a place to gather and celebrate the way of life that our veterans have bequeathed to us. It is a place for weddings, concerts and choirs: for church and family gathering; for Fourth of July celebrations; and for Memorial and Veterans Day services. “Those who sacrificed the most will find pleasure that they are remembered at such times.”
Co-chair Andrews said, “The Veterans Memorial is a great opportunity to pay homage to our service men and women. “These Americans answered their country’s call. They left home and families, faced many perils and all too many made the ultimate sacrifice so that we could live in the greatest country ever. We all should honor them for the freedom we too often take for granted.”
How to Participate
Anyone may add a beloved name to the Memorial wall.
Each space costs $100. Make checks payable to the Veterans Memorial Pavilion Fund, P.O. Box 1313, Broadway, NC 27505.
Anyone wishing a form may call Post Commander Frank Miller or Ladies Auxiliary President Linda Miller at 296-1475 to get a copy of the enrollment form.
Directions to the Event: Veterans Park is located on Railroad Street off of Hwy 24 in historic Downtown Warsaw.