Memorial A Tribute To Community Spirit As Well As Veterans

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Payson Police Chief Don Engler (above) will be one of the featured speakers at the 2010 Veterans Day program to be held at 11 a.m., Thursday, Nov. 11 at the Payson High School auditorium. Also scheduled to speak are Mayor Kenny Evans and Payson Fire Chief Marty deMasi.

More often than not, the story of the all the work that goes into building community memorials and monuments gets lost over the years.

With Veterans Day at hand, we went in search of the story of how the Payson Veterans Memorial was built at Green Valley Park.

It started nearly 20 years ago. The memorial was conceived in 1993 by the late American Legion Commander Arlene Kreuder, according to a story published in the Payson Roundup June 12, 2000. However, it was not officially initiated until late 1998 or early 1999.

At the time the article was published, Sherman Alston told author Mike Burkett the Payson Veterans Memorial Committee started with 45 people and over the years became of group of five. But it was a group of five very determined, civic-minded individuals: Alston, Joe Tunno, Mary Alice Haithcock, B.J. Hunt and Don Meyers.

From the beginning, the hope was to build the memorial near one of the Green Valley Park parking lots. It was also always the hope to make a memorial that would honor all veterans, not any particular war.

The group thought a contractor might be able to build it for $16,000 to $18,000, and if there was enough volunteer labor and donations of materials, it could be built for less.

When all was said and done, and the monument was dedicated on Memorial Day, May 2001, it had cost $53,000 to build. The area’s veterans’ groups, businesses and community organizations raised the funds. The Town of Payson and the Tonto Apache Tribe each contributed $9,000 to the project.

The memorial was not quite complete when it was dedicated with more than 700 people in attendance. However, most of what we see today was in place in May 2001: bronze plaques that honor America’s fallen veterans and name the Arizona servicemen who died in the line of duty, and the flags of the U.S., Arizona and the MIA/POW flag at the center of the monument. Yet to be added at the time were the POW-MIA podium and five pillars, each of which is dedicated to one of the country’s five military services: the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and the Coast Guard.

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The Veterans Memorial in Green Valley Park is a continuing reminder of the sacrifices made by the men and women who have served our country in the Marines, Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.

Community urged to help thank veterans

Residents of Payson and the Rim Country are urged to take time out next week and participate in ceremonies to thank the area’s veterans.

Starting the day will be a flag ceremony at the Payson Pioneer Cemetery at 8 a.m. Local Boy Scouts are placing 215 flags on graves at the cemetery for the ceremony.

The Town of Payson Veterans Day program is at 11 a.m., Thursday, Nov. 11 at the Payson High School Auditorium. There will also be a program at the Payson Elks Lodge later in the day.

The Town of Payson’s program is themed “Thank You, Veterans” and will include refreshments, welcoming remarks, presentation of colors by the Payson Military Honor Guard, invocation and remarks by Mayor Kenny Evans, Police Chief Don Engler and Fire Chief Marty deMasi.

Additionally, the program will have tributes presented by the students of the Payson High School drama department, music by the Payson Choral Society, a patriotic medley of service hymns. The hymn “Amazing Grace” will also be sung and “Taps” presented.

Following the town’s program, a number of veterans will be treated to lunch at the Mazatzal Hotel & Casino, courtesy of the Rim Country Classic Auto Club.

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Veterans Day services will be held at Payson Pioneer Cemetery and Payson High School Auditorium this year.

The Elks’ program to raise funds for veterans starts at 4:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 11 with a no-host bar, followed by a ceremony, buffet dinner, blind auction, raffles, including one for meat. Veterans will eat for free, the cost for everyone else is $6.50 per person.

For information, call Bud Huffman at (928) 474-4392 or Harry Offerman at (928) 468-3498.

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