ABINGDON, Va. (WJHL) – Two Confederate statues in Washington County, Virginia are the start of a new veterans memorial park.
At a Friday dedication, organizers told News Channel 11 that the June 3 date was significant because the statues had originally been dedicated 140 years prior on the same date.
“Our great ancestors dedicated this statue on June 3rd, and that’s why we wanted to have it on June 3rd in tradition and remembrance of our ancestors,” Washington County resident Eric McReynolds said. He was also the master of ceremonies at the dedication.
Last year, the county board of supervisors voted to relocate the monuments to make room for the courthouse expansion project in downtown Abingdon.
“It could’ve been put back at the courthouse; however that would require moving it, storing it up to well, two and a half years, and then moving it again,” said Charlie Hargis, a Washington Co. supervisor.
Friday’s re-dedication of the statues was originally budgeted at $10,000.
“Our whole dream was $10,000 and get it in the ground. We were blessed. We got $140,000 to extend this park,” McReynolds said.
The park is maintained financially by the Veterans Park Association, and any additions to the park will be handled by that organization. The new park is located at the Washington County Virginia Government Offices Building, so the county will maintain the park.
“We’re hoping to put in things like picnic tables and shelters and things like that,” Hargis said.
But the day is not without controversy.
“This is history. We want to remember history,” Hargis said. “Taking statues down does not change history, okay? Some of the history of the United States we are not that proud of, but I think it’s just about the best country that’s ever existed myself.”
The event drew dozens of families from across Southwest Virginia. A panel of speakers recited the history of the statues and a group of Civil War re-enactors showed their pride by shooting muskets and doing a celebratory yawp.
“It’s all about family, heritage, tradition and preserving American history,” McReynolds said.
The park is currently known as the ‘common soldier’ or ‘common foot soldier’ park, but that name might change in the next month or so, according to organizers of the dedication ceremony. Citizens will be able to weigh in in a competition to rename the park.
No information had been available Friday regarding the naming competition.