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Stafford Armed Services Memorial opens

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STAFFORD — Lloyd Willis and his wife searched for their brick.

The couple from Colonial Beach purchased the memorial stone to support the new Stafford County Armed Services Memorial. Willis, 92, served in the Army in World War II and Korea.

“It’s important that we do this to set the example for the future of our country,” said Willis. When he enlisted at age 18, Willis said it was his brother who set the example for him — one of service to the nation when Germany and Japan threatened the U.S. and the world.

He was one of the thousands who came to the dedication of the new memorial at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 15 at the Stafford County Government Center. Hundreds sat underneath large tents, while others took shelter under shade trees to avoid the hot summer sun.

Veterans from Korea and Vietnam wore hats, and some leather vests and jackets. Active service members wore their uniforms, and all listed to music played by Quantico Marine Corps Band.

It was the first time residents could visit the $838,000 memorial, designed to be a place to honor those who have served and died in U.S wars dating back to the Revolution to the current War on Terror. A re-enactor from each respective war stood silently in period uniform as residents passed a large slab of granite noting each war.

“We tell stories… that’s how we pass on our legacy. I know a lot of veterans don’t like to tell stories because of some of the details in them, but with young people, it’s important to tell those stories,” said Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller.” “That legacy is what we use to motive, educate, inspire, and help others to understand what it means to join our ranks.”

Following the death of Marine Corps sniper Stafford High School graduate Sgt. Donald Lamar, 23 who was killed in Afganistan in 2010, his family asked for a street to be named after the fallen Marine. County officials opted to raise money and instead build the veterans memorial to honor Lamar and all from Stafford County who served.

Neller said Lamar was “one of our very best.”

Two years later, a working group led by Marines Lt. Gen. Ron Christmas, Col. Mark Dudenhoeffer, of the Virginia House of Delegates, and Gary Snellings on the Stafford Board of Supervisors chose Kline Memorials, of Manassas, to build the monument across from the county’s government center. That group also served as chief fundraiser for the project.

“There’s nothing I hate worse than asking people for money,” said Snellings. “This group went door to door to every business in this county. They even asked churches, and when you call on churches, and they respond, you are probably good at what you are doing,”

The memorial is built on an incline with nine stone slabs noting major U.S. wars seen when walking up the gallery. At the top is a granite fountain with a globe rotating, floating on the water underneath. At the monument’s pinnacle, a quote from George Washington, “To prepare for war is the most effectual means of preserving peace.” Underneath, a mural etched into the stone shows active duty military reaching out to a veteran in a wheelchair.

Nine more future conflicts may be added to the memorial on the backs of the stone slabs, to be seen as visitors descend back down the gallery,” said President of Kline Memorials Rick Burroughs.

The statue now stands open to the public. Other counties across the nation should see the memorial as an example and may consider building their own, added Neller.

“It’s been said everyone dies twice: Once the when the last breath leaves the body, and again when your name is spoken for the last time,” said Snellings. “This memorial will make sure our veterans are not forgotten.”

The memorial is located at 1300 Courthouse Road in Stafford.

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