EL CENTRO â€“ Local dignitaries andÂ veterans oversaw the groundbreaking ceremony of the construction phase for the new Veterans Memorial at Bucklin Park in El Centro Tuesday.
â€œThis is a very exciting time for me and for our council,â€ said El Centro mayor Jason Jackson. â€œThis is something we have been working on all year. We will have it completed in time for a big celebration on Veterans Day, November 11.â€
Over 50 people attended the ground-breaking ceremony, including veterans from the American Legion Post 25 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9305, who were given the opportunity to express their gratitude.
The ceremony began with the Pledge of Allegiance lead by Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 9305 followed by a 21-shot salute.
â€œWe are very appreciative for this memorial,â€ said Tom Henderson, who spoke on behalf of the VFW Post 9305. â€œThis memorial is very important to all Imperial County veterans and will be very important to our children and grandchildren.â€
â€œThis is a blessed day and I am so proud and happy for my brothers and sisters who are being honored with this celebration,â€ said Commander TreviÃ±o of the American Legion Post 25. â€œThis is a long time coming.â€
The construction will be done by Erickson Hall Construction at an approximate cost of $300,000, paid by El Centroâ€™s general fund.
Erika Aponte, speaking on behalf of Erickson Hall Construction, said the project was more than just beautifying Bucklin Park — it was a symbol to not only local veterans, but veterans across the nation.
The memorial consists of a five-sided black granite monument representing the five branches of the armed forces: Marine Corps, Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard, along with their designated flag and a larger American flag along with the VFW flag in the middle. A cobblestone walkway will lead to the site with a walking path surrounding the monument along with a memorial wall and benches.
â€œI look at this as more of a reverent place to come, sit, and reflect on really what this should mean to every American,â€ said Jackson. â€œPeople will have the opportunity to come here and see what this really means.â€
El Centro Councilwoman Cheryl Villegas-Walker said she was sure her father was happy to see what the city was doing to honor veterans.
â€œMy dad was a Korean War veteran and I know he is smiling down at us knowing that we are doing the right thing, at the right time, and for the right reasons,â€ said Villegas-Walker.
Jackson said the memorial was his vision and idea, however it wouldnâ€™t have been possible without the support of the city council members.
â€œMy council members were 100 percent on board with this idea and all understand the meaning and symbolism of this,â€ said Jackson. â€œWe all want to honor our veterans because you (veterans) truly are what makes America great.”
Jackson added the memorial was his focal point when sworn in as the mayor of El Centro.
â€œWe are a military town and now I can say we constructed this in honor of our veterans,â€ said Jackson.
Jackson said he plans to have an annual Veterans Memorial Day parade and make it tradition for the city.
The monument is expected to be completed by Veterans Day on November 11, when city officials are planning to hold a big celebration for the ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony.