NEWBURY -- Creating a veterans memorial park to honor all resident who served in conflicts -- from the French and Indian War to Iraq and Afghanistan -- is the most inclusive way to recognize local servicemen, according to veteran Don Jarvis. He recently offered a detailed proposal for such a memorial on land behind the post office known as American Legion Park.
Although members of the WWII Memorial Committee had nothing against the concept, they preferred to keep their panel’s focus on creating a park to highlight a memorial stone bearing the names of 117 local WWII soldiers. Last October the committee worked with the highway crew to move a six-ton monument from private property at 11 Central St., Byfield, onto American Legion Park, a job that would have cost around $9,000 otherwise, said Fred Davis, who chairs the panel.
Jarvis, who has actively worked on local veterans' causes since serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, said he was offering the plan but couldn’t participate in executing it. His job with the state, along with health ramifications related to war injuries that have begun to intensify recently, prevent him from taking a more active role at this time.
“I cannot jump deep into this like I would want to,” Jarvis said.
In addition to the WWII Memorial already in place, his vision includes installing “Newbury’s Honor Roll” -- a series of granite markers to immortalize veterans' names, with sections for each war and conflict and room on the back to add names of soldiers in future conflicts.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think we have seen the end of war yet,” he said.
During phase one, the committee would research war memorials statewide and costs for materials. Phase two would focus on fundraising events and seeking state grants and other resources. Funding for care and upkeep for the park also should be included, said Jarvis. Construction would happen during phase three. A dedication ceremony for the park could take place on a future Memorial Day, he said.
In terms of maintenance and upkeep, the town might consider tapping Triton Regional High School students who need to earn community service hours.
“Our students are underutilized and they are very talented,” said Jarvis. Parts of the job also might lend themselves to an Eagle Scout project.
Another idea would be to have students interview veterans and their families and create a “Newbury Reflections” book series to capture the stories for posterity. Proceeds from book sales could go toward construction and maintenance.
Bringing the traveling Vietnam War Memorial to Manter Field, with a booth providing information about the local project, is a good way to raise public awareness, he said.
Jarvis also gave a shout-out to the Byfield Community Arts Center across the street from American Legion Park. “Why aren’t we using that as fund-raising or meeting spot?” he asked.
Workers are also available through the Essex County Correctional Facility, said Jarvis, who noted that the prisoner work program provides inexpensive labor and is good therapy for those who participate. “It gives them a sense of pride and a chance to reconnect with the community,” he said.
This should be a community-wide project that engages everyone from grade school students to senior citizens, he said.
Davis’s committee envisions an entrance to the park from the right of the property, where a 25- by- 5-foot brick walkway would lead to the memorial in the center of a circle of bricks 14-feet in diameter. Two granite benches would flank the circle and irregularly shaped plant beds containing flowering shrubs and low, ornamental grasses could border the brick walkway.
The discussion before selectmen last week sparked resident Craig Loth to note that, unlike other towns, Newbury hasn’t held a Memorial Day parade or ceremony for years. He recently observed the flag flying incorrectly on town property on Memorial Day.
“That’s shameful,” he said. On March 1, 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower proclaimed the flag should be flown at half-staff from sunrise until noon only on Memorial Day then raised to full staff until sunset. “This town has to do more for veterans,” Loth said.
“It saddens me that we do not respect Memorial Day. Shame on Newbury. I want to do something about it,” said Selectwoman Alicia Greco.
Selectman Damon Jespersen called Jarvis’s idea “a great place to build from” and proposed reviewing the charge of WWII Memorial Committee to see if there is any overlap with what he is suggesting.
But, Davis and his colleague Evelyn Noyes are eager to finish the project they started so that the one remaining WWII soldier named on the plaque who is still alive at 101 years can be around to see it completed. The group hopes to raise $50,000 to $60,000 in private donations but “it’s coming in a little slower than expected,” Davis acknowledged.
Donation checks with “WWII Memorial Fund” written on the memo line may be sent to: Town Hall, 12 Kent Way, Byfield, MA 01922.