A serene park honoring military veterans, separated from Buckhead’s bustle by trickling fountains and flapping flags, opened on Memorial Day as a tribute to those who served the country in times of peace and of war.
Veterans Park at the Atlanta History Center was dedicated Monday as hundreds of people gathered to remember both those who died and survived. Unlike other memorials, this new park honors all U.S. military veterans whether they saw armed conflict or not.
“It’s not just for those who have fallen. It’s for anyone who has served and worn the uniform. It’s their park,” said Maj. Scott Delius of the Army National Guard, who introduced speakers Monday and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007.
The park’s dedication was marked by bagpipes, a band and speeches. The grassy, one-acre park features interactive exhibits that tell veterans’ stories and includes QR codes that point visitors’ smartphones to online interviews and additional information. The park also has memorial plaques, picnic tables and 6-foot-wide granite seals representing each branch of the military.
The fan-shaped park, nestled a few blocks from Peachtree Street along West Paces Ferry Road, is free and open to the public.
It was built over the last two months with a $500,000 donation from The Home Depot Foundation, which also contributed volunteer efforts to build picnic tables and put plants in the ground.
“This is something the city needed. There isn’t much recognition for veterans in Atlanta, and it’s in a good location,” said Jack Robinson, who was a corporal in the Marine Corps and fought in the Korean War in 1951 and 1952.
The Atlanta History Center originally opened a bare-bones quarter-acre salute to servicemembers in 2000, when it posted a plaque and built a small garden for Vietnam War veterans. Over the last two years, the center explored ways to expand its tribute, said Jackson McQuigg, vice president of properties for the center who oversaw the park’s construction.
When McQuigg looked at parks across the country, he found them to be static, limited memorials that couldn’t grow with the times. Atlanta’s park will continue adding exhibits to include veterans from both the past and the future.
“We wanted to honor veterans of World War II who came back and invigorated our country, as well as recent veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan. This is a living park,” McQuigg said.
The park includes a time capsule with soil samples from every major U.S. military conflict from the Revolutionary War to Afghanistan buried beneath an 8-foot-diameter seal of the United States at the center of the park. Some of the soil was scattered by veterans around the park’s flagpole.
“Hopefully people will support and read the history of the veterans,” said Bob Babcock, who was a first lieutenant in the Army and served in the Vietnam War in 1966 and 1967. “If it weren’t for the veterans, America would be the place it is today. Freedom isn’t free.”
Twenty-nine-year-old Justin Brooks, who has been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan two times each since 2003, said the park will help ensure that Americans never forget veterans.
“It’s a friendly reminder to the community to remember that sacrifices that were made,” said Brooks, a sergeant 1st class in an Army National Guard from Cobb County.