100 gather in honor of new veterans memorial

It is dedicated to all who gave their lives while serving.

Tim Lynch, retired director of the Alachua County Office of Veterans Services, walks past the headstone of the Hampton Veterans Memorial on Saturday.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer
Published: Saturday, January 22, 2011 at 6:08 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 22, 2011 at 9:24 p.m.

Freedom isn't free.

That was the message at a memorial dedication honoring all United States veterans Saturday afternoon.

About 100 people, veterans and non-veterans alike, gathered at Santa Fe Cemetery near Hampton, northeast of Gainesville, for the unveiling of the new memorial sponsored by the Hampton Veterans Memorial Fund.

"Always remember to honor and thank our veterans," said Jim Mitzel, president of the fund, during the ceremony. "I remember."

The project, which cost about $15,000, began 2 years ago when Alan G. Rogers, a U.S. Army major who grew up in Hampton, died in combat while in Iraq.

Wanting to honor his memory, Mitzel and his team thought of building a monument.

The project soon grew in order to encompass all those who gave their lives while serving, according to Mitzel.

Through persistent fundraising that included chili cook-offs and bowling games, and with help from community donations and the Santa Fe Cemetery board, organizers finally raised enough for the memorial.

The memorial reads "Remembering Those Who Gave Their All For Us" and is surrounded by flagpoles featuring the flags of each branch of the U.S. military.

In the future, the plan is that families of veterans will be able to buy a brick inscribed with their loved one's name for the memorial, according to Santa Fe Cemetery Trustee John Campen.

Saturday's dedication ceremony began with a flyover by a World War II reconnaissance aircraft, followed by a prayer from Chaplain Bob Lucas.

"Remember all gave some and some gave all," Lucas said.

John Konkus from the office of U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns also spoke, as did Jim Lynch, former Alachua County veterans services director.

Lynch stressed how important it is to honor all veterans of every war from World War II and Korea to Vietnam and onward.

Lynch pointed out that not only did soldiers protect citizens from foreign aggressors, they often went out into the world to defend those who could not defend themselves.

"This memorial is proudly dedicated to each and every U.S. veteran. They deserve nothing less," Lynch said.

Georgeann Pullen, who sang "God Bless America" during the ceremony and volunteers for the fund, said this day was a long time coming.

"It's awesome, all the supporters," she said. "It's a wonderful day."

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