Freedom Park memorial unveiled

Review Correspondent

The much-anticipated final design of the Clare County Veteran’s Freedom Park memorial project was unveiled to a crowd of over 100 veterans and citizens on Tuesday at the Clare County Courthouse in Harrison.

Renee Haley, Director of Veterans Services for Clare County, gave the presentation along with the all of the committee members who have worked diligently for the past year to bring the project to its current stage.

Haley opened the ceremony by saying, “Serving in the military is truly one of the greatest accomplishments that anyone can achieve in their lifetime. So many men and women have the courage, the intelligence, the love and the strength to give everything they’ve got to make this world a better place to live and to make sure the U.S. is safe from terrorism and threats. Many have died or have become permanently disabled trying to protect this nation. And I guarantee you, if you were to ask them, they would do it all over again. That is why it is so important that we show these soldiers just how much we appreciate what they’ve done for us every day and not just on holidays.”

In partnership with the AVC Design firm out of Harrison Township, Haley and her committee have done an amazing job in designing a memorial that is not only a fitting tribute to Clare County’s military veterans, but a tremendous asset to the city of Harrison itself.

Haley commented, “I can assure you there is nothing like this in the whole state of Michigan. We will be bringing something to Clare County that is truly unique.” She announced that the cost of the completed project will be $400,000 and will be paid for entirely through grants, fundraisers and donations.

Joseph Prato, Commander of the Harrison American Legion Post 404 and Vietnam veteran, was in attendance for the presentation and stated, “For me, this means that a lot of veterans will finally get the recognition that has been due to them for a long time.”

The overall design of the park is truly impressive. As you first walk in, a kiosk with touch screens will provide you with pertinent information about all of the wars represented, names and information about those who served, as well as directions to the various features of the memorial.

The hexagon-shaped park will feature what the committee calls “The Wall of Tears”. Made from black granite, the “Wall” will display the name of every Clare County service man or woman who gave their life for their country. A gentle waterfall will perpetually cascade over the names.

The finished memorial will include a walkway constructed from over 6,000 square feet of bricks. Each brick will have inscribed upon it the name and military information of an individual veteran. To prevent damage to the bricks by salt and snow during the winter months, the walkway will be heated by a boiler system. Bricks may be purchased from any Veterans Committee member or by contacting the Clare County Courthouse.

As an added convenience, the park will have its own restrooms along with benches and picnic tables to allow families of veterans to spend quality time together while honoring their loved ones.

“This is such a big event for us,” Haley added in closing. “This is kind of the turning point for our project and it becomes a reality from this point forward. Our next step will be to apply for the various grants and hold several fundraisers that will allow us to break ground hopefully by the end of the year.”

The memorial will be permanently located on the empty lot adjacent to the Harrison Elementary School, directly across from the courthouse. There will be 24-hour access seven days a week to the park for the convenience of those who wish to visit in private during the night. The entire park will be equipped with state-of-the-art security cameras and will be under constant surveillance by the Sheriff’s Department.