Veterans Park set to open this weekend

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By Amanda Manning

 A new park is opening this weekend in Crestwood that has a goal of educating the community in military history, while honoring those who have served and died for their country.  

Veterans Memorial Park of Kentucky is located adjacent to South Oldham High School, directly off of Veterans Memorial Parkway in Crestwood. 

The long-term project will eventually feature a sidewalk with 300 years of military history, with three types of educational markers along it, as well as monuments, an informational kiosk, a brick pad of engraved veterans’ names, and an outdoor classroom, among other additions. 

The chair of the Board of Directors for the park, Don Helton helped make a section of Highway 329 become Veteran Memorials Parkway. His initial plans were to place bronze markers along the bypass detailing military actions, but the Federal Highway Administration would not allow signs to be placed along the road.

From there, the idea of Veterans Memorial Park of Kentucky was born. The Oldham County Board of Education approved the park to be constructed on the 1.7 acres of school property.  

The project has received donations and grants from the United Parcel Service (UPS), Humana, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), Oldham County Fiscal Court and other organizations and individuals.  “We have raised well over $200,000 on a dream,” Helton said. 

Dedication ceremonies are this weekend, starting with a dinner at Lake Forest Country Club on April 7 for $75. The dedication ceremony will take place in the South Oldham High School gym on April 8 at 11 a.m. The event is free and open to the public. 

Attendees will be able to see an American Revolutionary War monument and pedestal. “If 100 or more were killed in a military action, they’re going to have their own granite pedestal,” Helton explained.

Some pedestals and informational markers along the sidewalk will also be on display on Saturday, with the first marker representing Tuskegee Airmen.  The Tuskegee Airmen were the first black servicemen to serve as military pilots in World War II. There is a Crestwood man who is a Tuskegee Airman whose name will be on one of the bricks, according to Helton.

Although the park’s home is Oldham County, it honors veterans from across the country.

Helton, who considers the park as national in its scope, rather than county or regional, says it has received nationwide financial support. 

“In our brick pad, we pre sold over 400 of those bricks and about 20 percent were purchased from outside of the state,” Helton said.

Locally, the Peyton Samuel Head Family Trust has sponsored bricks for the 42 Oldham County residents who died while in combat since World War I. 

Helton promotes the substantial youth involvement in the research, dedication, ceremonies and construction of the project. “What better way to recognize those who served and died in their sacrifice than to educate the youth in their sacrifice. That’s really what makes our park unique in America,” Helton said. 

The project has drawn participation by homeschooled students, as well as students from area high schools beyond Oldham County. Multiple groups, including American Heritage girl troop, Boy Scouts, Sons of the American Revolution and Beta club members have helped build an outdoor classroom, install flag poles, identify the trees in the Theodore Klein Historical Tree Museum inside the park and conduct research. 

There are plans for additions each year, but it will be years before the park is completed, according to Helton.

“Right now we’re projecting approximately 10 years to put in the markers and pedestals and things like that,” Helton explained. “The monuments take a little more because they each cost about $25,000. It’s going to take us 12 to 14 years to put those in. We might be able to speed up some of that stuff but we can’t speed it up too fast because it loops back to the research.”

“It’s never going to be finished as long as there is time that America goes to war,” Helton added.  

To continue to progress, the park will need additional funding. “I’m being up front, we need financial support to continue what we have done so far,” Helton said. 

To learn more about Veterans Memorial Park of Kentucky or to donate to the project, veteransmemorialparkky.org.