Taking part in the official groundbreaking of the Global War on Terrorism Memorial in Doylestown, Pa., March 24 (L-R) are Sgt. Robert Bray, United States Army; Ed Krensel and Richard Scott, both of Doylestown Post 175 Veterans of Foreign Wars; Charley Mar
The construction of a monument to honor fallen soldiers in the global war on terrorism is officially under way in Doylestown, Pa., with a groundbreaking ceremony held March 24.
The Global War on Terrorism Memorial, spearheaded by Doylestown VFW Post 175, will occupy a site in the courtyard of the Bucks County Courthouse and is designed to symbolically memorialize local soldiers who were killed in action in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, battling terrorism.
The design of the memorial will incorporate "education as art," according to VFW Post 175, and will "tie together international struggles with terrorism and the tragic losses felt here in the backyards of Bucks County [Pa.]."
The shape of the memorial will be a globe consisting of four freestanding wall sections, which will be made up of longitudinal and latitudinal lines that create photo boxes, 60 in all. In each of these boxes will be a photo of a fallen soldier.
Rich Scott of the VFW Post 175 explained how the idea for the memorial came to fruition.
"It’s a small community," he said of Doylestown. "We see one another at events, particularly around Memorial Day and holidays and things of that nature. We were dedicating a plaque to the people that had gone through Central Bucks School District and lost their lives in battle. A conversation ensued with one of the Gold Star parents about — well, you know they have monuments to everyone else in the courtyard there — it probably wouldn’t hurt to have a monument to the brave fellows and gals from Bucks County that lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan."
That was in 2008. By 2012, VFW Post 175 had set about a design competition and petitioned the county commissioners for the land in the courtyard, which was granted. A study facilitated by the Bucks County chapter of the American Institute of Architects helped bring the design finalists down to nine. And from that nine, a winner was selected almost unanimously, said Scott.
Then the fundraising efforts got under way.
"We started with about $8,000 in the bank and a year later we were knocking on the door of $150,000," Scott said. "We did a very good job at raising money. The businesses of Bucks County were very generous with their hearts and with their pocketbooks on this project."
The fundraising is not quite done, yet. Scott said he’s still looking to raise "a little more money for maintenance and repairs. We will create a fund that will maintain and rehabilitate the memorial, if necessary, once it’s built," he added.
The memorial’s centerpiece will be a section of runway from the Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. For this, Shan-Gri-La Contractors of nearby Plumsteadville, Pa., has been subcontracted for both site prep for the memorial and placing the runway section, as well as masonry work. Chip Bunch, owner of Shan-Gri-La Contractors, explained how his company got the job.
"The veterans that are spearheading this memorial [VFW Post 175] approached E.P. Henry and we are an authorized installer for them," Bunch said. "E.P. Henry is donating the pavers for the bottom of runway section. Since we are an authorized installer and we have a good relationship with them, they recommended that Steve Braun of Brauns Inc., the memorial’s primary contractor, contact me."
Brauns Inc. is based in Doylestown, Pa., and specializes in custom signage, custom metal fabrication, pylons, awnings and more, including memorials.
Shan-Gri-La will be transporting the runway section, weighing 3,600 lbs. (1,633 kg), from Willow Grove Air Force Base in Horsham, Pa., to the memorial site in Doylestown. There, they will delicately set the runway into the pre-excavated site. Excavation work was done with a Kubota KX057, purchased specifically for this project from Eagle Power & Equipment, headquartered in Montgomeryville, Pa.
But prior to that, there were some complications with the site that had to be surmounted.
"When we started excavating, we encountered what looked like a construction dump site," said Bunch. "There were broken concrete slabs, old ductile iron, old heater cores and water pipe."
Before this discovery, the plan was only to dig down 9 in. (22.9 cm). That turned into 4.5 ft. (1.4 m) once the material was found. Shan-Gri-La had to haul away the material, wait for the site to be re-engineered, create an 8-in. (20.3 cm) wire-meshed concrete slab and fill the remainder with 2B to the original subgrade elevation.
After all this, Shan-Gri-La was able to set the runway section April 2, only two days later than originally planned.
The memorial is still on track to be completed May 16 and an official dedication ceremony is expected to be held that day. The price tag for the memorial is currently estimated at $200,000, though the VFW Post 175 is still seeking donations.
Shan-Gri-La Contractors has a long, successful history in the Doylestown area.
"We have been around since 1939," said Bunch. "My grandfather started Shan-Gri-La Farms, which began as a poultry farm; then it went to a sod farm. Then, my parents began in 1967 in Plumsteadville, and in 1990, I started landscape construction. In 2002, my wife and I bought the sod business from my parents and continued the family business plus the landscape construction business."
Participating in the Global War on Terrorism Memorial is an honor for Shan-Gri-La Contractors.
"When I had a pre-construction meeting recently, the impact of this memorial really set in for me," said Bunch. "When I saw some of the military personnel show up, what it meant to them, I realized even more what a really huge impact the memorial will have, and how very high profile it is. I’m incredibly proud to be a part of it."
For more information on the Global War on Terrorism Memorial or if you’d like to make a donation to it, call 215/512-5300 or visit www.bucksGWOT.org.