|Veterans Park | Atlanta History Center | Photo: Travis Swann Taylor|
This magnificent three-quarter-acre park was placed precisely at the corner of West Paces Ferry Road NW and Slaton Drive NW, typically the first part of the Atlanta History Center's 33-acre complex that visitors glimpse. Mere steps from the main entrance, Veterans Park welcomes all to engage in personal reflection, and to "ignite profound connections with veterans and honor the lives of those who have made great sacrifices for our freedom."
This park is not only for those who made the greatest sacrifice, but for those protecting our freedoms today, right this very second, as well as for future generations.
The centerpiece of the park is an eight-foot diameter Seal of the United States carved from granite sourced from Elberton, Georgia, known as the "Granite Capital of the World!" Placed under this great Seal is a "Sacred Soil" collection, including soil from every major conflict where the United States has engaged, from the Revolutionary War to Afghanistan.
The park is flanked by two tranquil, cascading water features in short, brick wall basins with multiple vertical splashes.
The packets of soil that Lester was referring to were scattered at the base of flags, gallantly swaying over Veterans Park, during the 2013 re-dedication ceremony by veterans and Gold Star family members.
Today's annual tradition at Veterans Park is a ceremonious gathering on Veterans Day of veterans and civilians with the program focusing on a different conflict or major military anniversary. The ceremony includes a color guard presentation, playing of our national anthem, sometimes bagpipes, and always a guest keynote speaker.
It's a beautiful yet somber event, but wonderful in that we get to meet veterans and thank them personally for their service.
Slightly smaller than the centerpiece Seal at six-feet in diameter, but just as magnificent, are five additional Seals of each of the branches of the United States armed forces: United States Air Force, United States Army, United States Coast Guard, United States Marine Corps, and the United States Navy.
I was a Radioman in the U.S. Navy, so that's the seal that I gravitate to on each visit to Veterans Park. I admire how this particular park recognizes so many of our armed forces men and women. Other monuments and memorials are amazing, but this one looks back, is in the now, and has eyes forward in gratitude to the service men and women protecting our freedoms.
There are panels, on brick pylons, throughout Veterans Park with quotes from interviews with veterans, part of the Atlanta History Center's Veterans History Project. An active program since 1999, it's "dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing veteran stories so that future generations can hear directly from those who served and better appreciate the realities of war and peacetime service."
Each panel has a QR Code, compatible with any smartphone, that links to videos in the Veterans History Project's collection of veterans sharing their stories.
"For those who have fought for it, life has a flavor the protected shall never know."
The cast eagle in the park is a gift from Lloyd and Mary Ann Whitaker, who were also instrumental in supporting the move of the Battle of Atlanta cyclorama painting from Grant Park to the Atlanta History Center. The stone base was quarried in Olympia, Greece, and was a gift from the Deppie and Lou Zakas family and the UPS Foundation.
The original Veterans Park, opened in 2000, was situated around a single Vietnam War marker. After 9/11, the greenspace was a locale where Atlantans planted countless tiny American flags grieving those lost in the terrorist attack.
It took a few more years, but today's Veterans Park, possible through a generous donation of $500,000 by The Home Depot Foundation, is one that Atlanta can be proud of, especially that it honors all who have donned a U.S. Armed Forces uniform, as well as all those who currently do and will.
A plaque at the corner entrance to Veterans Park reads:
Dedicated May 27, 2013, to honor all
those who have served and continue to
serve the United States of America.
protecting freedom around the world.
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well
or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any
burden, meet any hardship, support any friend,
oppose any foe to assure the survival and the
success of liberty.
President John F. Kennedy
January 20, 1961
The fan-shaped park is a lovely greenspace with numerous benches where visitors can relax and reflect. The park is free and open to the public, too.
If you want to visit the whole of the Atlanta History Center, just head to the main entrance beyond The Lloyd and Mary Ann Whitaker Cyclorama Building. If you're visiting at lunchtime, check out Souper Jenny, also at the front.
The Other Gardens: This is the eighth post in a series sharing the beauty of the nine gardens on the Atlanta History Center's 33-acre campus. You can find them all here.