Dream now reality

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 14, 2007

MURFREESBORO – Imagine waiting 63 years to see one of your greatest dreams come true.

If you can imagine that then you’ll know what Joe Dickerson felt when he saw the first piece of the Murfreesboro War Veterans’ Memorial placed on its foundation on Thursday in front of the Murfreesboro Town Hall.

“I’ve been waiting to see this for 63 years,” said Dickerson, head of the Murfreesboro War Veterans’ Memorial Committee.

It’s been a six month endeavor by a committee and a project made possible by the Murfreesboro community through donations.

Dickerson said the project began when he got 13 men together, all of them war veterans themselves.

Those 13 became the Murfreesboro War Veterans’ Memorial Committee.

“I know I picked the best 13 men in Murfreesboro,” he said.

And it had to be 13 members.

Dickerson, a World War II veteran who fought in D-Day, has a lengthy history with the number 13. From relatives’ birthdays falling on Friday the 13th to Dickerson being injured during the war on the same day—the number 13 always surfaced.

For most it’s a wretched number steeped in superstition. But for Dickerson it has always been his lucky number.

And for Dickerson and the others it worked out well as the committee raised $62,000 in donations for the project, relying solely on the community.

“Everybody was just there 100 percent behind us,” he said. “It (the memorial) belongs to the Murfreesboro community.”

Together the 13 men designed the four tiered granite structure honoring veterans from four wars, taking inspiration from other veterans’ memorials.

Using the old Murfreesboro School District map, the committee members set about collecting names for the memorial.

Dickerson said in order for veterans to be eligible, they had to be citizens of the town at some time in their lives, whether they lived in the town one time and moved away or if they moved to the area.

In all, more than 500 names are on the monument, covering the Navy, Army, Marines, Coast Guard and Air Force from the World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Gulf wars.

The World War II center stone of the monument stands 10 feet tall and weighs 9,500 pounds.

Separate stones will be erected for each of the other wars.

As workers from Murfreesboro Metal Tech and Clifton and Clifton Monuments of Elizabeth City lifted the solid granite WWII stone on to the memorial’s base, passerbys slowed to take a look at the flurry of activity.

Mayor Lynn Johnson, Councilwoman Gloria Odum and Police Chief Darrell Rowe dropped by to see the memorial’s first piece placed into position.

Jollish Clifton, the owner of Clifton and Clifton Monuments, said his company has done other memorials, but this one is a little bit different.

“This is the most unique one because they (the veterans) designed it,” he said.

Clifton admits if he had laid out the design of the memorial he would have been thinking from a customary point of view.

After seeing the committee’s vision of the memorial, Clifton referenced a book that showed memorials from the last 25 years.

“There’s not any one close to this,” he said. “It’s absolutely beautiful.”

Clifton said the Georgian granite was cut and polished by a company in Elberton, Ga. and comes five in different shades of gray or blue, as it’s often called. He said the memorial is made out of a darker shade of the granite.

Ray Felton of Murfreesboro Metal Tech volunteered a 50 ton grove carry crane to help install the memorial. For Felton the gesture was a way of giving back to the war veterans in favor of their forfeits.

“I could not be such a successful business person without them,” he said. “Our sacrifice is very small.”

After the first stone was set in place, Dickerson and another committee member, Bob Hill, walked over to take a look and trace their fingers over the names for the first time.

The dream may have been a long time coming, but both Dickerson and Hill are proud to see the project finally being completed, which ironically came on the day before Friday the 13th.

“I’m very happy this is being done,” said Hill, a World War II veteran. “I hope it brings back a feeling of patriotism. Our public is not as patriotic as it should be.”

Dickerson hopes the memorial will touch younger generations and perhaps be used as a learning tool.

“I hope a lot of young people take a look at this thing,” he said. “We hope they look at it (and see that) freedom is not free.”

A dedication ceremony is set for May 28 at 10 a.m.