Tim Ard and many others are realizing a vision that began roughly 10 years ago: the completion of Freeport Veterans Memorial Park! Being revealed on Veterans Day 2019 are the plans for the final phase to bring it to completion. The memorial “Homecoming” will also be unveiled and is a dedication to the children of those who serve to recognize the absence of that family member while they are away. The public is invited to join in a special ceremony this Veterans Day, Nov. 11, 2019, at 2 p.m. at the Memorial Park at Freeport City Hall on Hwy. 20 to hear special guests from across the country. New signs will be unveiled by Freeport Mayor Russ Barley and Freeport City Council members Eddie Farris, Elizabeth Brannon, Amanda Green, Elizabeth Haffner and Boots McCormick. A reception will follow at City Hall sponsored by the Town Planters Society.
Recent growth in 2019 saw the addition of a War Dog Memorial, A new POW/MIA statue along with new seating at the site, and an Invisible Wounds memorial paying tribute and honor to those men and women who have served our country in conflict, and as a result suffer the effects of PTSD/TBI.
Tim said the entire project came about in January of 2010 at a meeting of the Freeport Town Planters Society. “A letter was read to the membership penned by then city historian, the late Beckie Buxton,” said Tim. “The letter had been written on behalf of local and long time Freeport resident Trudy Boudreaux. Boudreaux’s husband Bob, who had passed away in 2006, was a member of the first ever Blue Angel flight crew and it had long been his desire to see a veteran’s tribute in his beloved Freeport,” he said.
Tim, a member, was so moved by the letter that he volunteered to spearhead the project, and so the journey began. Tim and his newly formed committee thought it would take at least five years to raise funds and complete. But it soon became very apparent that the community was behind the effort 100 percent, and on Veterans Day 2010, the initial monument featuring the eagle in flight and the five service branch markers were unveiled and dedicated before a crowd of more than 200. In 2011, branch service flags were added behind each of the stones. In 2012, a bronze Fallen Soldier Memorial was added. The same year the sponsor walk was bricked and the POW/MIA flagpole and ground stone were unveiled and dedicated.
When the initial area donated by the city of Freeport was filled and the committee felt its job was complete, “the community had other plans,” said Tim. “We were constantly being approached regarding a project that would allow local families to buy bricks to honor or memorialize their veterans.” So, in 2015 the Freeport City Council allowed for park expansion by donating land west of the sidewalk. There, in 2016, the HERO WALK monument and brick walk was dedicated. The addition of a beautiful PURPLE HEART memorial honoring all of our combat wounded was dedicated by Purple Heart recipients in 2017 sponsored by the St. Joe Community Foundation.
Expansion continued and 2018 brought the WALK OF WAR to the Memorial Park. Veterans from WWII, Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm helped to dedicate it. Each year’s projects were dedicated on Veteran’s Day.
Tim said the journey would have been impossible without the constant help from sponsors GLMCO Memorials of Walton County and Stonescapes of Freeport and the never-ending support of the Freeport community.