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Peachtree Corners plans reverent Veterans’ monument

A group of volunteers in Peachtree Corners has, for about 2 years, been planning the design and construction of a veterans’ monument to be located on the city’s future Town Green.

Left to Right: John Watkins, Janet Watkins, Judy Putnam, Doug Heckman, and LC Johnson.

The desire to erect a monument honoring those who have served (or who are currently serving) in some branch of the United States military is not unusual in municipalities; Gwinnett County and several cities have done the same thing. However, the design and function of Peachtree Corners monument is both unusual and innovative.

Bob Ballagh, executive director for the Peachtree Corners Veterans Monument Association (PCVMA), heads up the committee tasked with planning and soon, with building, the monument. “There is a difference between a veterans’ memorial and a veterans’ monument,” Ballagh explained. “A memorial honors those who have died in combat. A monument honors all veterans, and it is a place people can learn about the U.S. military and all that it has done.”

Ballagh and his team have been fortunate to enlist the help of key people in order to make the vision for the monument a reality. Diana Wheeler, Peachtree Corners’ Community Development Director, helped the team find the land on which to build the approximately 2500 sq. ft. monument – on the Town Green. Members of the city council backed the idea. The monument is expected to be finished at about the same time as the Town Green is opened, in mid-2018.

Pennsylvania sculptor Chad Fisher donates one sculpture a year to the military or to veterans. He has agreed to create the sculptures for the Peachtree Corners monument, asking only that the 501 (c) (3) purchase the materials. Imagine Advertising designed the Association’s logo and provided other valuable assistance with getting the word out about the monument. The city is donating the land, architect Taylor Hadaway and Post Oak Partners gifted the group’s effort with the initial drawings. Piedmont Bank and United Peachtree Corners Civic Association donated $500 each to the effort early on. “We are so fortunate to have the entire city behind us on this,” Ballagh said.

One of the key differences in this monument is the elements of design, which include seven separate sculptures as well as benches, engraved wall caps and an interactive component. A pillar topped with a bronze eagle with a 4 ft. wingspan will be central, surrounded by bronze sculptures of veterans in each of the five branches of service and one to represent the National Guard and Federal Reserves. One of the most thoughtful elements of design is that each branch of service is represented by a veteran who may be a man or a woman, an African-American, a Caucasian, an Hispanic American or a Japanese American. Uniforms reflect different eras of the country’s history; there is a World War II marine, a Navy sailor in crackerjack uni-form, an Army soldier in contemporary uniform, a female American Air Force fighter pilot, a Coast Guard captain, and a Minute Man representing the National Guard and Federal Reserves.

“We want to reflect accurately the makeup of the United States Military, and pay respect to the men and women who defend this country and her interests,” Ballagh said.

One of the most interesting and distinctive features of the monument is two interactive kiosks and the custom app to be created for them. Using a kiosk or a smartphone, visitors can locate a brick or paver with a loved one’s name and in-formation on it, and the history linked to that brick. Information about monument donors and a list of Peachtree Corners veterans, as well as Witness to War documentation about veterans is also shared via the app. Witness to War is a Peachtree Corners-based nationwide initiative dedicated to reaching U.S veterans of war and documenting their stories for posterity. 

The PCVMA has also partnered with Norcross High School’s Junior ROCTC (JROTC) program, allowing those young people to adopt the monument and provide cleanup and maintenance throughout the school year. Ballagh hopes to enlist the help of local Boy Scouts to do the same during the summer months. JROTC students will also write the content about each of the branches of service to be shared via the custom app. Six granite benches and granite wall caps will also feature engraved historical information, and JROTC students will write that content, as well.

The estimated cost to bring the vision of the monument to fruition is $520,000, with about 20 percent of that total raised as of December 2016. . Private donations and purchases of monument elements – from the stately eagle to a single brick or paver – are expected to cover the full cost of construction of the monument. Donations are tax deductible.