Clay County Chapter 1059, in partnership with private sector organizations and volunteers, in early October, dedicated the TAPS Monument during a ceremony at the old Clay County Courthouse in Green Cove Springs, FL.
The monument is named for the Civil War-era music that is sounded at dusk and at funerals. The ceremony was originally scheduled for Sept. 11, but was postponed because of Hurricane Irma. Rutledge, who participated in the ceremony, along with John Bowles read the names of the 66 fallen Clay County warriors, followed by the playing of taps.
“We come here today to honor the 66 veterans that gave their lives for us, they are honored today not for what they received, but for what they gave,’’ Clay County Commissioner District 5 Gayward Hendry told the crowd of approximately 250, that included family members and friends and dignitaries from all levels of government. The TAPS Monument honors the 66 Clay County veterans who lost their lives during combat, dating back to the Civil War.
Hendry, a retired Marine Corps Reserves Chief Warrant Officer Three, paraphrased George Washington in his speech: “The willingness by which young people are likely to serve their country in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.”
“We’re here this morning to send a strong message to the youth of our nation, those who will become our saviors, those who will become the people who protect us that we will honor you,’’ Hendry said.
“I had a vision to have a monument built in Clay County to honor Vietnam Veterans and then we decided to build a monument for all of the fallen warriors to make sure they would be memorialized and remembered for ever,’’ Newman said in his remarks. “It has been our honor and our privilege to present this to all of the citizens of Clay County. This will be a place of solitude. They will put benches out here in the near future. Then people and can come here and sit and reflect and look at their family members name and bring up good memories from the past.”
The new permanent memorial replaces the old monument at the Clay County Historical Triangle. It was a monument 2½-years in the making even though it was first proposed 10 years ago by Clay County Commissioner chair Harold Rutledge.
The current TAPS committee, headed by Chapter President Gary Newman, held its first meeting in March 2015 and has been raising money ever since, gaining approval from the City of Green Cove Springs and the Clay County commissioners. The TAPS Monument cost $82,000 and was completely funded by charitable organizations and individuals.
Surrounding the monument is an engraved brick area paved with donations by private and corporate donations. The committee will continue to sell 4-inch by 8-inch memorial bricks which will be utilized for the perpetual maintenance of the monument.
There will be 14 veterans from the Civil War on the monument, three from World War I, 13 from World War II, two from Korea, 18 from Vietnam and 12 from the Global War on Terrorism. Four more names will be added at a later date – John Frisbee from the Civil War, Randolph W. Ford (U.S. Navy), Charles R. Crews (U.S. Army) and Robert M. Neil (U.S. Marines) from Vietnam.
The names engraved on the granite base come from the same quarry in India as that of the Vietnam Veteran Memorial in Washington, DC. The four-sided, 5 feet by 5 feet granite monument will have the names of all Clay County Fallen Warriors inscribed. The following are the names of the fallen from the Vietnam War:
Claude D. Wilson Jr., USN; Herman L. Gurr, USA; David B. Tucker, USA; James G. Blackshear, USA; Wayne C. Kurlin, USMC; Paul J. Cummings Jr., USA; Gary R. Cooper, USA; Michael G. Hoff Sr., USN; Don R. Scott, USN; Ray F. Williams, USA; Paul L. Carter, USMC; Douglas A. Lentz, USMC; Larry B. Jenkins, USA; Michael B. Kopetski, USMC; Arthur J. Ross Jr., USA; Quincy H. Truett, USN; Ralph N. Bright, USA; Otis Parker, USA, Randolph W. Ford, USN; Charles R. Crews, USA; Robert N. Neil, USMC.
Source: David Treffinger, Clay County Chapter 1059