JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — Johns Creek has set its Veterans Day celebration for Nov. 16 with plans to unveil the first stage of the Wall That Heals installation.
Rather than on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, Johns Creek has opted to hold its observance the following Saturday from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the Johns Creek Veterans Memorial Walk, inside Newtown Park.
“Johns Creek through the Veterans Association has, I think — and I got a big personal tie to this — the best veterans memorial of any city in the state of Georgia that I’ve seen,” Councilman Steve Broadbent, a Navy veteran himself, said at a recent council meeting. “It has individual plazas starting with World War I through the current war in Afghanistan, with special plazas for POW/MIAs (Prisoners of War and Missing in Action) and women in service.”
Last year’s Veterans Day event included speeches from elected officials and local veterans and a musical performance by children from Mount Pisgah Christian School.
This year the event will be the public debut for the “Wall That Heals,” a 250-foot replica of the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Johns Creek Veterans Association, Johns Creek Chamber of Commerce and Leadership Johns Creek helped fundraise for the project.
Like the original monument in Washington, the memorial is a black chevron with the names of more than 58,000 names of U.S. service men and women who lost their lives or were missing in action in Vietnam.
Since the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund began the “Wall That Heals” project in 1996, the monument has toured nearly 600 communities, including Johns Creek in spring 2017. Every few years, the organization retires a monument and replaces it with a new replica for tours.
In May 2018, the city announced it would become the permanent home of the recently retired replica.
“I want to thank the city and others for bringing this thing back and installing it so veterans can come to the wall and start the healing process,” said Roger Wise, a member of the Johns Creek Veterans Association who will be inducted into the Georgia Military Veterans Hall of Fame in November.
In the initial bid, the city promised $80,000 to the installation of the wall made possible by the Johns Creek Convention and Visitors Bureau and through a donation by local residents John and Cori Davenport.
Over the past year, the Johns Creek Veterans Association, Johns Creek Chamber of Commerce and Leadership Johns Creek have worked to raise money for the installation, lighting and landscaping for the wall.
The city recently accepted three large corporate donations.
Sawnee Electric Membership Corporation granted the city $10,000 through its Operation Round Up project. With this program, Sawnee EMC members can voluntarily have their electric bill rounded up to the nearest dollar. The change then goes to local nonprofits.
The city also accepted $10,000 from the Wells Fargo Foundation, which also works to secure housing for veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, and from Jacob’s Engineering, which oversees the city’s Public Works and Parks and Recreation departments.
“On behalf of Jacob’s Engineering, we are so happy and so excited to continue the partnership we currently have with the city,” Public Works Director Lynette Baker said. “This one is very special in my heart. We have some great staff who are both veterans and excited to be project managing and getting this project actually built.”
The city also accepted a donation from Marjorie Greene, owner of Taylor Commercial, for all of the concrete needed for the project.
“They graciously agreed that they would fund all of the concrete that’s going to be used for the Wall That Heals,” Councilman John Bradberry, a Marine veteran, said. “[Saying] the concrete doesn’t really do it justice. It’s about $18,000, so this is really going to push us to where we need to be to make this happen.”
Greene, who is running in the Republican primary for the 6th U.S. Congressional District, said the donation was in honor of her father, a Vietnam veteran, and her husband, who served in the Navy.
“I’m honored to present this check to the Johns Creek Veterans Association and the City of Johns Creek, and I’m very grateful that we have such an incredible community that is able to have the Wall That Heals right here at Newtown Park,” she said.
Veterans Association officials say the new monument will live up to its name and help veterans heal, while also honoring a group that was once neglected.
“One of the reasons I and many other people feel so strongly about honoring our Vietnam veterans is that they were truly the forgotten veterans in the ’60s and ’70s,” Broadbent said. “It took our nation a couple of decades after the conclusion of the Vietnam War to recognize this important group of veterans.”