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History of the Memorial

History:
Huntsville - Madison County Veterans Memorial

The Huntsville Madison County Veterans’ Memorial Foundation (HMCVMF) began as a casual conversation 12 years ago on the 50th Anniversary of the Korean War. This vision was reinforced by the visit of a half-size replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall displayed near Big Spring Park Oct. 26-29, 2000. Two veterans and impassioned community leaders discussed the possibility of building a Veterans Memorial in Huntsville to honor the many area veterans of Madison County who have given so much for their country. In 2002 a committee was formed to raise money for the memorial with Bill Stender as its chairman. The City of Huntsville and the Madison County Commission chartered the committee.

The HMCVMF is formally organized as a 501 c (3) nonprofit organization with the following mission:

  • Honor and pay tribute to all veterans
  • Recognize by name the Madison County veterans who were killed in action during all wars from WW I to present.
  • Recognize and honor Madison County veterans awarded the Medal of Honor.
  • Inspire our residents and visitors by instilling a sense of pride and respect for all veterans who have served in the armed forces of the United States of America.
  • Provide an incentive to serve.
  • Be sufficiently interesting so as to educate local residents and visitors, especially the young about the sacrifices made by those that came before them, and those who continue now to guarantee our freedom by serving in the Armed Forces of the United States of America.

Efforts to raise money were slow at first and came to a standstill in 2003 and 2004 when the city and county leaders turned their full attention to the decisions of the Base Realignment Commission.

The City of Huntsville Planning Commission Authorized the idea by proclamation in March 2004 to be built in the former Gateway Park and rename it Veterans Park in 2006 and efforts to build the memorial restarted with the establishment of the memorial foundation by Bill Stender and Brigadier General (retired) Bob Drolet with Bill Stender as the Foundation Chair. In 2006 the City of Huntsville made land available on Monroe Street just off Washington Street in downtown Huntsville.

During the fall and winter of 2007, a series of important meetings with Chapman Sisson (Martin Sisson) as well as several other architectural companies were conducted.  We also looked at a number of themes before finally agreeing to Courage, Sacrifice, and Duty.  We then formed committees and had meetings hosted by Cathy Anderson and Bob Drolet – as we tried to get larger/broader participation from other organizations and people.

The bids for the design and construction of the memorial were opened on November 30th 2010 and after negotiations the contract was awarded to Fite Construction for completion in October 2011. In 2012 Fite Construction received the prestigious “Excellence in Construction award” from the Alabama General Contractors Association for the Veterans Memorial construction.

On December 7, 2010, Pearl Harbor Day, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the t the newly named Veteran Memorial Park. At the time of the groundbreaking ceremony the foundation had raised $2 million to the design and construction of the memorial. The estimated cost of the memorial is planned to be over $3 million all raised by private donations. In January 2008 the HMCVMF began a campaign to raise the final amount necessary to fully fund the construction of the memorial of $4.0 Million. Cathy Anderson was named the Chairwomen of the campaign. At the time of the announcement of the campaign in January 2008 the funds balance was $152,000.00. When the Memorial was dedicated on November 11, 2012 the memorial was fully funded and debt free.

The Huntsville-Madison County Veterans Memorial was dedicated on Veterans Day, November 11, 2011. The dedication was attended by approximately 1,000 Government leaders, dignitaries and guests on a beautiful morning at 11:00 AM, Veterans Day November 11, 2011. The List of Government leaders, dignitaries and the Board of Directories is shown below.

Dignitaries

  • Senator Jeff Sessions
  • Congressman Mo Brooks
  • LTG Richard P Formica
  • Mayor Tommy Battle
  • Madison County Commissioner Mike Gillespie

The Courage Statue, Eternal Flame, and Time Capsule were dedicated with a ceremony on 17 November 2012. The Patriots Walkway was dedicated on 11 Nov 2013. This completed all major planned construction.

Board of Directors

Bill Stender, Chairman                                    Jim Snellgrove

Lee Hoekenschnider                                        Pat Graves

Hundley Batts                                                    John Holly

Robert Drolet                                                     Jim Roundtree

Larry Capps                                                        Sandra Steele

Jon Stieglitz                                                         Linda Green

Grayson Tate                                                       Jim Link

Frank Libutti                                                        Tom Houser

John Olshefski                                                      Steve Raby

Pete Schofield                                                      John Zierdt, Jr.

Jim Flinn                                                              Adrian Erchenbrack

Tom Young                                                          Cathy Anderson


New Additions Planned

The HMCVMF is planning for two more statues in the future. These statues will be the First Responder/Wounded Warrior statue and the Military Family statue.

First Responders and Wounded Warrior Statue: This 1 to 1:1 scale bronze statue honors all First Responders who lay their lives on the line protecting us in time of grave need & when tragedies strikes and are always at the forefront when needed to save a life. Ignoring the hail of bullets that surround them or braving the flames of a fire with the only thought in mind of saving a life. It is also to honor the thousands of Wounded Warriors who have been injured while serving their country in combat. The models for the First Responder are Major Jeff Owen a combat veteran and John Perry II, a Huntsville Medical Emergency Services (HEMSI) first responder who died as a result of emergency response operations.  The Wounded Warrior Statue model is Lance Corporal Kendall Bane who was wounded during combat operations in Afghanistan.

Military Family Statue:  The Military Family shows a family waiting and praying for the safe return of a loved one. It is a 1 to 1:1 scale bronze likeness of a mother and her children waiting the return of their loved one and represents and pays honor and tribute to the many Gold Star and Blue Star families and fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters who honor and support the service and sacrifice of our troops. They are the backbone and heart of the soldier and why they fight to protect our freedom and way of life. Since our beginnings in America’s heartland, they have grown to represent thousands of families that keep our nation strong.

Veterans Memorial Ambassadors: The Ambassadors are the connection or bridge to tomorrow. They connect the Veterans and citizens of today to the veterans and citizens of 2062 when the Time Capsule will be opened by the Ambassadors. The details of their Charter and tasks are on the web site, www.huntsvilleveteransmemorial.org.   Veterans Memorial Ambassadors were officially chartered in a ceremony on 10 November 2012 at the Memorial. There are 233 Ambassadors who have pledged their commitment and were sworn into the ambassador program on 10 November. Consider that , 233 boys and girls , with  their parent’s  consent, have recognized the impact and historical significance of the Memorial and have stepped forward to say “include me, I want to be part of this meaningful program and give life to this Memorial now and into tomorrow. Count me in –count on me!” In this day and age to have that response and commitment is overwhelming!!

In summary, the public response has been overwhelming in their acceptance and support. As of the final dedication over 5,000 of the available 10,000 brick pavers were purchased and installed. Every brick paver has a story. Every paver touches someone deeply with significant meaning. The Memorial has become a hallowed place where the community can gather to reflect, to ponder, to remember, and to honor loved ones. It is a private place where you can gather your thoughts and reflect; or a place to gather and celebrate with others. It has become many things to many people.

The Memorial honors all who have served, are serving, and will serve in the Armed Forces of the United States.

A description of the memorial is located at the Monroe Street entrance.

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