Grady Barefield expected to see phase four of the Veterans Memorial Park completed by the end of 2020. Barefield, chairman of the memorial committee, said he is frustrated and disappointed that it wasn’t.

“Nobody wanted it up more than me,” Barefield said, referring to the fifth stone that saw two projected completion dates pass by in summer and fall and has yet to be engraved with names of veterans.

Annette Jones, sales manager for Reece Memorial Company’s Rogersville location said that the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to the delay.

“All this COVID stuff, it’s kind of slowed us down this year,” Jones said. “It impacts us getting the stones, the quarry being open. When all this started, everything wasn’t opened back up. It has impacted everything.”

“Since this was such a big project, the layout is done in Georgia, where we purchased the stone,” she continued. “They are going to do the engraving because it’s such a big project. We do our own engraving but this stone, they’re doing it in Georgia. They’re trying to get it squared away so they can get it back as soon as possible.”

The stone, which Barefield ordered from Reece in December 2019, has been cut and is ready to be engraved, according to Mike Reece, owner and president of the company.

Barefield also cited the pandemic for a delay in the grading and construction of a multi-level foundation originally slated for the summer of 2020 that will eventually bear a total of eight stones engraved with the names of 225 veterans on each side. That construction was finished in the fall of 2020.

Waiting for names also contributed to the delay.

“This one will have 450 names on it,” Barefield said. “It took us longer to get all those names in than the other stones did. When we finally got those in and sent to (Reece Memorial Company), they had people that were out with the virus and got behind and haven’t been able to put the names on the stones. That’s very discouraging that they weren’t able to do that and get it up by the end of the year.”

Reece said that his company received the list of names on Nov. 17, 2020.

Jones confirmed that the layout should be completed and sent to Barefield to proof and approve “within the next month.”

Reece said the proofing process prevents costly and embarrassing errors.

“The spelling is very crucial,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of veterans projects and there have been so many mess ups. They’ve left people’s names off and misspelled them. Once (the Veterans Memorial committee) signs off on it, they send it back to us and then we send it to the manufacturer and they process it.”

Jones estimated the stone will be completed and placed on the foundation in March or April.

Barefield asked for understanding from the public and supporters of the memorial.

“I appreciate their patience and I’m sorry we didn’t meet our goal,” he said. “We’ve met our goals each time except for this last one. We tried but it just didn’t happen.

Please continue to be patient. We’ll continue to work through this virus and get it up as soon as we can and continue on with the process for the next stone as well. We are still accepting applications for our next stone. I’ve already received some for that. This is an ongoing process.”

The staggered, multi-level placement of the next eight stones is designed so that no stone is obscured when visitors use the walkway to view the memorial. Wheelchairs will be able to get around the stones and up the walkway. This phase also includes making the pavilion handicap accessible.

The four stones already installed on the site, including stone D that went up in the fall of 2019, are arranged in a circle around the flagpole and contain 225 names on one side, honoring a total of 900 veterans so far. The eight newer stones will be arranged so that names can be engraved on both sides for a total of 450 per stone.

According to Barefield, any veteran from any branch of the military with any connection to Greeneville is eligible, including reserves.

“You do not have to have been born here, any veteran that served at any time at all, living or deceased is eligible,” he said. “They don’t have to have been in a war. They don’t have to have been overseas. They just have to be active duty or have served and been honorably discharged and have some connection to Greeneville.”

Tax-deductible donations to assist in continued development of Veterans Memorial Park can be sent to Greene County Veterans Association, earmarked for Veterans Memorial Park, at P.O. Box 804, Greeneville, TN 37744.

For more information about fundraising efforts or including a veteran’s name on planned future monuments, call 639-3775 or email maxbare4ut@embarqmail.com.

Veterans Memorial Park is located on Forest Street between South Myrtle Street and Takoma Avenue.

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