• 63°

Caledonia plans veterans’ memorial at local park

On a November day in Baghdad, Iraq, less than a year and a half ago, Army Staff Sgt. Brian Freeman, a graduate of Caledonia High School, gave his life for his country when a roadside bomb exploded.

At the future site of Caledonia’s new veterans’ memorial this week, town residents took the first step toward giving something back to Brian and all of his fellow servicemen and women.

Town leaders, local veterans and Brian’s parents hung a sign at the entrance of Ola J. Pickett Park, the future site of the memorial, announcing the project and asking for donations.

When completed, the memorial will include a stone and brick monument honoring all U.S. veterans, a new flagpole and two fallen-soldier statues — one for Brian and one for Jeffrey Dayton, a Caledonia High School graduate killed in Iraq in 2004.

“This means everything,” said Glen Freeman, Brian’s father.

Freeman and his wife, Patricia, donated the new flag and flagpole along with $1,000, matched by the town, to begin the memorial.

“Our son was everything to us. People don’t realize what it is to lose a child,” he said.

Understanding the sacrifice that so many others like Brian have made, the Freemans hope the memorial will honor all who have served in the armed forces.

“This boy was a hero,” said Freeman. “Not only was he a hero, but others who’ve died over in Iraq are heroes too and we don’t want to leave anybody out. When we make this dedication over here, we’re going to dedicate it to all of the men who’ve died in Iraq and other wars.”

Caledonia resident James Shaw fought in Vietnam and has family who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Shaw believes the memorial will remind all who see it of the cost of service.

“I can’t describe how it touches my heart. A lot of people don’t know that we’ve had some great men in this area who have fought in just about every major war there is. The price that has been paid in all these wars has been tremendous.

“Every American child should know the sacrifice of veterans and what it cost so that you and I can be talking today,” said Shaw. “This is just a great day to contribute to the men and women of our country in this great community of ours out here.”

Although the project has funds to get under way, the town still needs to raise $15,000 to $20,000 to complete the memorial, said Caledonia Alderwoman Brenda Willis.

To accomplish that goal, the town plans on selling bricks inscribed with veterans’ names that will be used in the memorial. Each brick will cost $50.

“We’re honoring all veterans — men and women who have served their country,” said Willis. “We’ll sell bricks that will have their name, their branch and their date of service.”

“We’ve got to raise a lot of money but we’re going to get there,” added Willis. “Selling the bricks is going to help us get there.”

Mayor Bill Lawrence noted Caledonia’s memorial will honor all veterans regardless of their role in the military.

“There’s a lot of people here that have loved ones they’ve lost in the war. There’re guys over there now,” said Lawrence. “But this is not just for anyone that has lost their life — this is for anyone that has been honorably discharged from the military.”

“Brian said one day that he hoped we were proud of him, and I am,” said Freeman.