Two retired DeSoto County residents, a Vietnam Marine veteran and his wife, both of whom have been active in supporting veterans, are continuing their plans to redesignate a portion of land near the DeSoto County Visitors’ Center and the Landers Center as a park to commemorate all those who have fought for our country, no matter where they are from.
R.G. and Diane Moore explained their vision of the DeSoto County Veterans Park to a recent meeting of the Rotary Club of Southaven. The Moores are now in the fundraising phase of their project, which they hope can be completed for Veterans Day in November this year.
“My husband and I wanted to do something special for our veterans and it began about four years ago when we first brought in the Vietnam Traveling Memorial to the Landers Center in 2012 and then we brought it in again in 2014,” Diane Moore said. “The vision is to make the park something that everyone will want to visit, make it educational and give people the opportunity to walk through the history of this country and honor the veterans who fought to preserve our freedoms.”
The DeSoto County Veterans Park LLC was formed with a seven-member Board of Directors to spearhead the drive. Southaven Alderman William Brooks, a veteran of the Iraq War, is president of the board.
The board received the approval of the DeSoto County Convention and Visitors Bureau last September to move forward. The CVB board will only take responsibility for land maintenance once the park is finished.
Markers at the park, which will ring the pond adjacent to the Landers Center and Visitors’ Center, will be done by Paul West of West Memorials in Memphis. West's work has included the Korean War Memorial at Overton Park in Memphis, Collierville, Tenn. War Memorial and other works across the country.
“There will be a monument dedicated to all veterans,” Diane Moore said. “There will be 13 markers or monuments inside the park. There will be six flags for each branch of the military and a walkway we are calling the Walk of Honor.”
That walk will be bordered by bricks which may be purchased to commemorate a loved one’s military service. The wording on the bricks will be laser inscribed to prevent fading.
Minimum cost of the project is estimated at $200,000 and the Moores are actively in the fundraising process.
“It’s been something my husband and I have wanted to do,” Moore said. “We were fortunate that we were able to find the land and I think it’s going to be a great spot because of the location of it. We are honored to honor our veterans.”
Max May, a Navy veteran of the Vietnam War, said the memorial park for veterans is long overdue.
"I was shocked to find out that we didn't have a memorial to our veterans," May said as the Moores gave him a guided tour of the trail leading to the planned memorial.
"It makes people, especially our veterans feel good," May said.
Brian Hicks, DeSoto County Museum director, said DeSoto County did have a veterans memorial that disappeared shortly after the "French Castle" courthouse burned in 1940.
"At the time, before the fire, it had a cannon and a marble monument and had names from the Spanish-American war and they even added names from the Great War," Hicks said, referring to World War I. "After the courthouse fire, it never resurfaced. Nobody knew where it went."
Kim Terrell, DeSoto County Tourism Association director, said the veterans park and memorial will also serve as a tourism draw.
"It's (memorial) going to be within an all-encompassing time frame," Terrell said.
"We're acknowledging and showing appreciation to all of those servicemen and women who gave it all in the service of our country," Terrell said. "The visitors who come in here can get more information about those who served. It will be great for our county. It's all centrally located. I think it will be a great addition to our county."
The park has a website, desotocountyveteranspark.com, where people may learn about the project and donate online.
Community Editor Robert Lee Long contributed to this story.