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A sign sits on the future site of the Stafford Armed Services Memorial near the Government Center on Courthouse Road.

Photo by Adele Uphaus-Conner

Stafford to honor their fallen service members and their families with new memorial

26 Jul 2016 | Adele Uphaus-Conner Marine Corps Base Quantico

In 2012, Donald and Coleen Lamar contacted Stafford County government officials, asking if they would consider naming a street after their son, Donald Lamar, Jr., a Marine sergeant and 2004 Stafford High School graduate who had been killed in Afghanistan two years before.

“We thought, that’s nice, but a street isn’t enough to honor his sacrifice,” said retired Marine Lt. Gen. Ron Christmas. “So many Stafford residents have given their lives for this country.”

The Stafford County Board of Supervisors appointed Christmas and two other citizens—Mark Dudenhefer, a veteran Marine who represents parts of Stafford to the Virginia House of Delegates, and Supervisor Gary Snellings, an Air Force veteran—to an Armed Services Commission tasked with the goal of building a memorial to honor all who have served, going back as far as the Revolutionary War and including those who will fight the wars of the future.

The Stafford Armed Services Memorial will be built on a grassy hill behind the government center on Courthouse Road. It will feature an entry plaza, a flag, markers to various wars, a memorial wall, a bench and a fountain.

“Each major war will be recognized and there will be room for future growth,” Christmas said. “It will be a place where you can come and reflect—a place of remembrance, reverence, and honor.”

He said the Stafford memorial will be unique because instead of just honoring the service members who gave their lives, it will honor their families as well.

“The families serve also,” Christmas said. “We’ve taken on that as an important theme.”

Stafford County has an estimated population of 142,003, of which about 38,000—nearly a third—are veterans.

“And so many of our Quantico community—civilian workers and active duty and retired Marines—live in Stafford, so this is a great place to have such a memorial,” Christmas said.

Kline Memorials, a Manassas, Virginia-based company, which has designed many memorials for Semper Fi Memorial Park at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, will build the Stafford complex. The design incorporates elements of the winning submissions from art and drafting students at the five county high schools. The overall winner of that contest—Aaron Brown of North Stafford High School, now attending Virginia Tech—received a scholarship of $1,500.

“We wanted to include input from our students because they represent our future,” Christmas said. “This memorial is all about the community.”

“Some of the winning designs were a bit far out, which was good for us old folks,” he added. Two of the student ideas that are reflected in the memorial’s design are a stone globe resting in a bowl of water, which represents the global stretch of the wars Staffordians have fought in, and a granite memorial wall to be decorated with an artistic etching. (The commission will hold a contest, open to Stafford veterans, to select an artist to design the etching.)

The commission kicked off the official fundraising phase of the project on May 26 and Snellings said they are already only $100,000 short of their $675,000 goal. The largest donation so far has been $100,000 from Larry D. Silver of the Silver Company in honor of both his grandfathers and his father, Carl Silver. Donations of $25,000 each have come from Atlantic Builders and from Richard Ward/Piccard Homes.

Citizens can support the fundraising efforts by purchasing a brick in honor of veterans in their families to line the memorial walkway.

Christmas hopes that groundbreaking for the memorial can happen this Veterans’ Day. Construction will take four to five months, depending on the weather, so officials hope for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to occur around Memorial Day 2017.

In the forward to his book A History of Our Own: Stafford County, Virginia, historian Albert Conner wrote, “All ‘Staffordians,’ regardless of their time here, can take pride in our county’s contributions to our nation, commonwealth, and region … however, Stafford currently lacks a sense of place, community and identity to match its potentials.”

The Armed Services Commission hopes that a memorial to Stafford’s service members can be a physical representation of community and serve as the cornerstone of a revitalized “downtown” for the county.

Writer: auphausconner@quanticosentryonline.com

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