“Fields of Freedom” a new veteran’s park
The Lions Club in Vidor has been in existence about three years and in that time they seem to have become one of the more active clubs in the area.
Like most Lions Clubs they support eye care and diabetes research and treatment. This year they plan to send a child to the Texas Lions Camp in Kerrville. They have also undertaken a project that goes beyond what most clubs are involved with.
The Vidor Lions are constructing a veterans’ park to be named “Fields of Freedom.”
Vidor already has two small memorials to veterans.
One was placed in front of the old city hall in 1969. It is a small granite monument with the 10 names of the young men from Vidor that were killed in the Vietnam War.
The other is a large, polished granite “V” that honors veterans of all branches of the service at Interstate 10 and Main Street. Both of these monuments are in what has become sites that may be somewhat ignored.
The Vidor Lions are planning to incorporate these monuments into the large park that will be located adjacent to Raymond Gould Park on I-10.
The centerpiece of the park will be a bronze statue of a kneeling current-day soldier, highly detailed, in his combat gear. He is facing a World War II battleground cross. The cross is an M-1 Garand rifle stabbed in the ground with a helmet placed on the rifle butt. This is the way soldiers were buried on the battlefield. The statue was sculpted by Scott Stearman.
Stearman is noted for his detail of military statues and this one is no exception. It is so detailed that the soldier has a tear going down his cheek from his left eye. The name of the statue is “Gratitude.”
The intent of the park is to honor and show gratitude for the service of veterans.
“Our club members noticed that though there were the two monuments in Vidor that there was nothing centralized to honor veterans. We decided to undertake the construction of a park that would honor all veterans from any era of service,” said Derrick Bolt, Lions Club president. “This park is not restricted to any one branch of service or to veterans from any one era. All that a veteran needs is to show his or her DD-214 for proof of service and we will place their name on the wall for their branch of service.”
The large ring surrounding the statue will have five upright black granite vertical walls.
Each wall will have the emblem of a particular branch of the military service and under the emblem, there will be room for 800 names on each wall. Opposite the walls will be a glass waterfall. In the middle of the concrete walk there will be brick pavers. Each brick can be engraved with the name and branch of service, dates of service, or any other type of information.
A sidewalk connecting the main area with the smaller areas where the existing monuments will be placed will be lined with 8-inches X 12-inches black granite pavers.
“Fields of Freedom” is a huge undertaking for the 30 member club. They have not received any funding from any governmental agency. All of the funding has come from donations.
“We have been fortunate in the help we have received so far,” Bolt said. “We had to raise the elevation of the park three feet above current ground level. Restlawn Cemetery donated enough dirt to do that and our members worked to get it leveled out. RBI construction, owned by Brian Elliott, made it possible to get the concrete walks and foundations installed. Brian gave us a very good price on the concrete and all the related work. Other than the cement finishing all the labor has been volunteered.
“Robert, ‘Tiger’ Lyons, one of our members and a World War II veteran has had a business selling flags for a number of years. Tiger got several flagpoles donated. That saved us a lot of money.”
The plans for the park include plans for expansion should the need arise. There is also the option of allowing for other memorials.
Jerry Gatch, the commander of the Stark ’64 Veterans Association, has inquired about the option of building a memorial to the veterans of the Vietnam War. There is currently no memorial or monument dedicated specifically to the veterans of that war in the area.
For information about honoring a veteran at “Fields of Freedom” by having a name engraved or purchasing a paver or to make a donation, contact any member of the Vidor Lions Club.
The club will be setting up a booth at the Triangle Trade Days on I-10, Exit 862 in Vidor for the next four weeks.
The purpose of the booth will be to promote the park project. Detailed information and downloadable forms are available on the club website:
Two local sites to pick up forms or to obtain information are Going Postal and Vidor Memorial Funeral Home, both in Vidor.