The Alabama Veterans Memorial Park
History and Park Information
From Kelly Ingram, the first Alabamian to be killed in World War I to Julius Ellsberry, a graduate of Parker High School, who was the first Alabamian to be killed in World War II to the 437,000 veterans currently living in the State, Alabamians have shown true valor for their country and strong compassion for their compatriots. The Alabama Veterans Memorial Foundation was created to help remember them and to help educate young people about war, peace and civic responsibility.
In the mid 1980’s, the dream to build the Alabama Veterans Memorial Park began with Della Fancher who realized that throughout the 20th century thousands of Alabamians had served in wars and thousands of Alabama families had lost the ones they loved. Yet, for all they gave, we had given very little in return to show our gratitude. This one person voiced her thoughts and quickly found other people who shared the same concern. Together, they formed the Alabama Veterans Memorial Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization which brought to life the dream of a permanent memorial park to honor Alabama veterans and for teaching, for learning, and for celebration of peace and democracy. This twenty-two-acre Park, dedicated in May 2001, will stand for all time as a tribute to the Alabamians who fought and came home, as well as those who died in the wars of the 20th and 21st centuries.
The 1000 ft Memorial Trail begins at the parking lot and winds through a natural wooded area. Near the end of the Trail is the American Flag Plaza. In the middle of the Plaza stands a 120 foot-tall flag pole with the American flag that can be seen from cars traveling on I-459 as they pass the Liberty Parkway exit. Encircling the flag pole are very special 4 inch by 8-inch brick pavers called StepStones, engraved with a veteran’s name, rank, and branch of service. This Plaza was created to honor all veterans because the Alabama Veterans Memorial Foundation believes that every veteran deserves a tangible way of being publicly recognized for his or her service. Whereas the next area in the Park, the Memorial Plaza, was created to honor Alabamians only, the American Flag Plaza is dedicated to all veterans who have served or all men and women who are currently serving, giving them a special place of remembrance. The honored veteran can be from any service time, any state and any branch; also, they may be deceased or living or currently serving. In addition to honoring a veteran, a military unit or a military-affiliated organization may be honored with a StepStone. Anyone can honor a veteran by purchasing a StepStone for a $100 donation. They are sold all during the year and are dedicated in two ceremonies each year – the Sunday afternoon before Veterans Day and the Sunday afternoon before the Memorial Day week-end.
Further down the Trail is the Memorial Plaza. The five Service flags proudly wave over the Plaza courtyard and the regiment of thirty-six columns is steps above the courtyard. Each column is two feet in diameter and twenty-four feet tall. Displayed on the columns are metal plaques that provide information about Alabama Medal of Honor recipients, original artwork by Alabama artists, and documents and letters about Alabama veterans. The text of the Medal of Honor citations, the wording of the documents and the artwork are also printed on the Park’s website under Memorial Plaza.
Behind the regiment of columns is the 23 by 46 foot uniquely designed Hall of Honor. Written on the Hall of Honor walls are the names of over 11,000 Alabama veterans who were killed in action during the wars from 1900 forward. The alphabetized names of the service men and women are listed by the war and the Alabama county in which they enlisted. Inscribed above the names are quotes by the United States president at the time of the war. The Last Watch Sculpture, created by Alabama artist John Farrer, was strategically placed in the center of the Hall of Honor as if keeping watch while facing the big American flag.
The Park is open every day during daylight hours. There are no bathrooms in the Park. Although entrance to the Park is free, donations are appreciated; a donation box is conveniently located at the entrance to the Memorial Trail. Dogs are welcome to accompany visitors but please keep the Trail clean.
The Memorial sits in a park atmosphere created for teaching, for learning, for celebration of peace and for celebration of democracy. Visitors will view and experience the following premier attractions: