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Awning being built to protect monuments

Five years of work and planning are starting to take form at the Veterans Memorial Park in Erwin.
Members of the Unicoi County Highway Department aided in renovations on Wednesday, April 8, by cementing holes on the property.
“This is a bit of a family gathering for me,” said Road Superintendent Terry Haynes, a fifth-generation military member of his family, in regards to the park.
Work is currently underway to place a canopy over the monuments of the park. Each monument bears the names of citizens who have served in the military. Unfortunately, rain damage has started to take its toll on the monuments.
“We wanted to get up enough donations to get started,” said Haynes, who was on scene Wednesday. “The fence around the park is done by donations … we’re getting the construction underway now. We had a lot of people say that once the construction started, they’d donate money to the facility, so we wanted to let the citizens know that we have started the construction of the awning at the Veteran’s Park to dry some of this water up.
“Bill (Hensley) and I met a couple of weeks ago and agreed to go ahead and get things started and we’re just hoping people will come out and support our veterans. We put it off, put it off … if we don’t do this, we’ll lose these monuments.”
The estimated cost of the project is at $25,000, according to Haynes. The group is currently working off around $7,000 to $8,000.
Helping with construction are Duncan Mechanical, Tysinger, Hampton & Partners and Summers-Taylor, Inc. Individuals who took part in the cementing process on Wednesday included Bob Hampton, Terry Powers, Robby White, Chris White, Randy Silvers and Jerry Bennett.
“We still have pledges coming in,” Haynes added. “We’re just asking for donations to help complete this project. We’ll go as far as we can go financially. If the money comes in, we’d shoot to have the awning finished by Veteran’s Day.”
The awning is just one of the renovations that are on tap for the park, according to Hensley.
“Once we get the canopy over it, we’re going to add new names and recondition the ones already on the monuments,” he said. “Once we do that, we’re going to go down on the concrete and place a nice outdoor tile and flagstone to dress it up a little bit outside and go around the center monument.”
Every facet of the park has been created through donations from members of the community and assistance from local businesses in order to honor members of the military.
Unicoi County resident Scott Fowler, who retired after 24 years of service in the United States Navy, also attended the construction Wednesday morning.
“If they’d let me sleep until 10 a.m. I wouldn’t mind going back,” Fowler said with a laugh about the military. “It was a great time in my life.”
The construction process was a sight to see, according to the veteran.
“It means a lot to me,” Fowler said. “It should also mean a lot to any kinfolks of people on these walls. Some people have never come up to this park to see how amazing it really is and it all comes from the help of volunteers, like Terry, his men, the landscaping companies … they all come up here and do good work.
“Donating to this park is a worthy cause. Some of these people are alive, but some of these names on the middle stone are gone and they really deserve this. They set us free, that’s the reason we’re standing here on this beautiful day, in this beautiful park and also everybody on these stones. They all served some time in the service and need to be appreciated. We do need some funds to help with this. If you have friends on these stones, we can take a dollar, two bucks. This is an amazing place.”
The support for the park has been overwhelming, Haynes said, mentioning a couple from Baltimore who donated $500 and a local resident who contributed $1,000.
“We can take anything from a dollar to $10,000,” he added with a smile. “Everything helps. If people have a loved one on these monuments and want to make a donation in their name, we’d love it. They can drop the money off to me at the highway department or get in touch with Edgar Rice. If they stop by the highway department, we can give them a receipt.”
Construction is also underway on the parking lot between the park and Gentry Stadium. This should be compete in the near future, according to Haynes, pending any holdups from inclement weather.