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BRUNSWICK — A campaign to raise $250,000 for a Town Mall plaza to honor military veterans has raised $30,000 in donations.
Organizers set a goal last December of having enough funds to complete the plaza by this Veterans Day, after a ceremonial groundbreaking on Memorial Day.
“It is an aggressive schedule,” Parks and Recreation Director Tom Farrell acknowledged in an interview Feb. 21 alongside Town Councilor David Watson, who is also commander of American Legion Post 20.
“We know it’s aggressive, (but) we’re not going to change it,” Farrell added. “I still think it’s possible, and we’re going to continue to work on that level.”
Even if all the money is in hand by this summer, construction would not begin until after Labor Day, given the use the Mall gets during the summer, he said.
“This is going to happen,” said Watson, who served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War. “It may take us a little longer, but this is … a project not only for the veterans, but for the town of Brunswick and the Mall.”
Farrell said the project fits with Brunswick’s downtown and outer Pleasant Street master plan, which calls for a public gathering place on the Mall.
A newer, granite monument to veterans stands at the north end of the Mall, but overgrown brush has prevented many people from knowing it’s there. That structure, which now faces the road, will be turned 180 degrees to face the green and be incorporated into the plaza.
Both men expressed a desire to involve other entities, including the town schools and historical society.
“This isn’t a story about just the plaza, it’s a story about the community,” Watson said.
“It’s going to be a place for reflection,” Farrell added.
The monument received approvals last year from the Town Council and Village Review Board. It will incorporate granite paver stones representing veterans of all branches of the military service, including the Merchant Marines. The “honor blocks” will be placed around a medallion in the center of the monument, which will depict an eagle over the stars and stripes.
Twelve “sentinel posts” will stand around the circular-shaped plaza like numbers on a clock, each depicting one of the country’s armed conflicts.
“It’s like a second hand on a watch,” Watson said. “It starts at the Revolutionary War, and sweeps through our entire existence.”
“There are so many conflicts that we don’t even know about … where veterans paid a price,” he added. “With that sweeping second hand going past every one of these sentinels, we’re honoring those people.”
The plaza, designed by the Richardson & Associates landscape architecture firm, will showcase 320 honor blocks, which people can “adopt” for $250 each to memorialize a veteran. The stones will include the honoree’s name, branch of service, the years they served, and the conflict in which they fought, if any.
If all blocks are sold, $80,000 will be raised toward the project, with the remaining $170,000 coming through traditional fundraising, Farrell said.
As of last week, about $20,000 worth of stones had been sold, he said. With most purchased by people with family or friends who served, the blocks tend to represent those who served in or around more recent conflicts, from World War II to the present.
An “adopt-a-veteran” campaign has also been launched, through which the stories of veterans of earlier wars, like the American Revolution, are highlighted in the hopes that a sponsor will purchase pavers in those soldiers’ names.
Historian Barb Desmarais, who serves on the project committee, has been researching and writing profiles on local veterans from the 18th and 19th centuries.
“If someone wanted to contribute, and they don’t have a family member, they could select one of these veterans, and sponsor a paver for them,” Farrell said.
That information is to be posted at veteransplaza.info, through which all pavers can be acquired. Veterans who are not from Brunswick can also be sponsored.
“Anybody from anywhere can be reflected here with an honor paver if someone would want to do that, as long as we can verify their service,” Farrell said.
The challenge of raising the funds goes hand-in-hand with keeping the project in the public eye, he noted.
“We’re continuing to strategize in terms of how we’re going to reach out to the business community as well as some individuals,” he said. “… To be successful you’ve got to be active on a lot of different fronts.”
Organizers of an effort to build a veterans monument on the Brunswick Mall hope to raise enough funds for completion this year. They include Town Councilor David Watson, left, who is commander of American Legion Post 20, and Tom Farrell, the town’s Parks and Recreation director.
Fundraising is continuing for a veterans plaza at the northern end of Brunswick’s Maine Street Mall.