It was during preparations for last year’s Heroes Homecoming observance in Hope Mills that Jim Blevins of the town’s Veterans Affairs Committee made a troubling discovery.
While working with the flags behind the town’s veterans memorial on Rockfish Road, one of the nylon ropes snapped.
Blevins said committee members quickly realized they needed to perform regular maintenance and function checks on various aspects of the veterans memorial. As part of that process, one of the things they put on a to-do list was to spruce up the appearance of the 105mm howitzer that is part of the memorial.
The retired weapon was a staple of American field artillery from the time of World War II all the way through the conflict in Vietnam. According to army.mil, it was the primary field artillery weapon used by the Army during World War II and is still in use in some parts of the world today.
Blevins said another member of the Veterans Affairs Committee who helped paint the howitzer, Grilley Mitchell, estimated it’s been as long as 15 years since the gun had gotten a fresh coat of paint.
Blevins and other members of the committee first used sandpaper to remove the old paint that was badly oxidized and peeling.
They tried to get some traditional OD green Army paint from an official source but were unsuccessful. But another committee member, Bill Greene, was able to secure several spray cans of the official Army shade and it was used to put a new coat on the howitzer.
“As long as we stuck to OD green, that’s the main thing, just the painting for now,’’ Blevins said.
Other members of the Veterans Affairs Committee who helped refurbish the howitzer were Joanne Scarola and Jim Morris.
The next big project for the committee is going to take a little more effort, not to mention more money.
The monument at the veterans memorial has some cracks in it, and some of the seals are worn as well. Blevins estimates the repair project will run in the neighborhood of $13,000.
While there is some money in the town budget to pay for the repairs, Blevins said the Veterans Affairs Committee doesn’t want the town to have to foot the entire bill.
He said the committee hopes to work with the local Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts to come up with a variety of fundraising projects to help cover the cost of repairing the monument and other projects the committee may promote in the future.
Ideas being considered are allowing people to purchase pavers that will be placed somewhere at the veterans memorial, along with building a fence at the memorial and letting people pay to have signs placed along it sponsoring sections of the fence.
Blevins said the most important thing is to keep the park alive and in good shape to properly honor the veterans from the community.
“That’s our military heritage to the people that came before us,’’ said Blevins, who is retired Air Force. “It’s to honor them and hopefully pass it on to the next generation.’’
Photo credit: Elizabeth Blevins