Salisbury Rotary dedicates Patriots Flag Concourse and Memorial at City Park

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 2, 2012

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — Walter Leather, 86, has gone to City Park nearly every day for the past two months.
The World War II veteran wasn’t feeding the ducks or playing tennis. He was documenting progress on the Patriots Flag Concourse and Memorial.
Leather returned to the park again Tuesday, his camera at the ready, snapping photo after photo during the ceremony dedicating the $200,000-plus brick memorial and honoring all who have served the United States.
“You can’t imagine what it means to see what people have done and donated,” Leather said. “It’s unbelieveable, what they have done.”
Conceptualized by Reid Leonard as a centennial project to mark Rotary International’s 100th anniversary, the monuments, sculptures and towering flagstaffs stand as a tribute to liberty and freedom.
During Tuesday’s ceremony, Leonard presented the memorial to Mayor Paul Woodson.
“Today, we have our dedicatory ceremonies and present the memorial as a gift to the people of Salisbury,” Leonard wrote in a letter to the city. “It is yours. It belongs to you.”
The Salisbury Rotary Club raised the money to build the impressive memorial, which includes several sections connected by walkways and encompasses a large portion of City Park at the corner of North Jackson and West Miller streets. More than 100 benefactors and sponsors contributed to the project.
Every brick was donated by Taylor Clay Products and laid for free by Summit Developers.
Families and individuals sponsored the massive American flag, as well as flags from six branches of the military that fly over the public concourse.
Each military branch is depicted in brick relief sculpture created by Virginia sculptor Sue Landerman.
The memorial features numerous quotations and texts, from the Pledge of Allegiance to the Declaration of Independence.
“This will be a place where all may come to reflect upon the ideals of our nation as expressed by the flags, symbols, insignias and meaningful inscriptions which may be seen throughout,” said John Holshouser, a former FBI agent and Rowan County superior court judge who delivered the keynote address. “A place where everyone … can remember, reflect and ask for God’s continuing blessings of peace, freedom, justice, strength and honor.”
Salisbury lacked an appropriate place for people to pay their respects to those who have served, Ronald Robinson Sr. said.
“Look at other places in the world where they have places to honor veterans,” said Robinson, an Army veteran from the Vietnam War era. “Salisbury was in need of a place like this.”
The circular shape of the memorial will encourage veterans to gather and reminisce with each other and their families, said Hercules Shannon, president of the Rowan County Veterans Council.
“This is one the best things that has happened for the veterans of Salisbury,” Shannon said.
Stephen Brown, a landscape architect with the city of Salisbury, designed the memorial.
Veteran and former Rowan County District Attorney Bill Kenerly led the Pledge of Allegiance. The U.S. Marine Corps flag was given in honor of his service during the Vietnam War.
Teresa Moore-Mitchell’s voice rang out over City Park as she performed the “Star-Spangled Banner,” “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America.” The National Guard provided a 21-gun salute.
Rotary surprised Leonard with a plaque that will appear on the memorial, honoring the civic leader for “unwavering pursuit of his patriotic dream,” said Ed Clement, who served as co-chairman for the memorial project.
The American flag that flies over the memorial is the nation’s most powerful symbol, Holshouser said.
“Whether our flag be held by the smallest child beside the Fourth of July parade, or whether it is the flag presented to the loved one of a soldier who paid the ultimate price,” he said, “it proudly hails the patriot, a salute to all dedicated and committed Americans.”
With a mournful train horn sounding in the background, the ceremony ended as N.C. National Guard member Brett Miller played “Taps.” He performed on a silver trumpet he received for his seventh birthday, 31 years ago today.
“I shall come here often to remember and pay my respects,” Holshouser said.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.