The annual Asheville-Buncombe Memorial Day ceremony held May 30 on Roger McGuire Green in Pack Square Park was a chance for residents and visitors to reflect upon and remember service men and women who had given their lives in the name of protecting the nation. This year, the event also marked a special milestone, as the WNC Veterans’ Memorial was officially transferred to the care of the City of Asheville and Buncombe County.
The memorial, adjacent to the Roger McGuire Green, is the result of a 13 year effort by the non-profit organization WNC Veterans Memorial, formed to raise money for its design and construction. The group worked closely and extensively with other organizations including the Pack Square Conservancy and the City of Asheville’s Public Art Board to make the memorial a reality.
The memorial was dedicated on Veterans’ Day, 2009, but its gifting to the city and county closed a chapter for the organization, said director and WWII veteran Tuck Gudger. Alongside money for design and construction, the organization also raised $140,000 for the care and maintenance of the memorial.
“We are so proud that the citizens of Asheville, Buncombe County and Western North Carolina donated not only the money for the memorial, but also the money to make sure it exists in perpetuity,” Gudger said. “And it gives us great pride to gift this memorial and the money for its perpetual care.”
The maintenance funds, held in two trusts, will be managed by the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, represented at the observation by foundation president Elizabeth Brazas.
Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy and Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Vice-Chair Bill Stanley were both present to accept the gifts.
“On behalf of the citizens of Asheville, thank you so very much to the men and women who made the commitment to make sure that we have this memorial in downtown Asheville for not only this generation, but future generations,” Bellamy said. “They wanted to make sure that people who visit, and more importantly, people who live in our community, understand the services that have been rendered and the lives that have been given to protect our country.”
The Memorial Day observation’s Master of Ceremonies was local radio personality and Gulf War veteran Matt Mittan. The keynote speaker was Staff Sergeant Josh O’Conner, who served two tours of duty, one in Afghanistan and another in Iraq. O’Conner, alongside Bellamy and Stanley, placed the traditional wreath in remembrance of fallen veterans.
Click here to see more pictures from the 2011 Asheville-Buncombe Memorial Day observation.