Monument honors Clay’s war dead

Kile Brewer
Posted 10/11/17

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – After years in the planning, a new monument honoring 66 Clay County residents who died serving in the U.S. armed forces is ready for public viewing.

The TAPS Monument was …

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Monument honors Clay’s war dead

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – After years in the planning, a new monument honoring 66 Clay County residents who died serving in the U.S. armed forces is ready for public viewing.

The TAPS Monument was revealed Monday at the old county courthouse after being delayed on Sept. 11 by Hurricane Irma. In the month that followed, the TAPS committee managed to add four names to the monument, up from the 62 that were originally etched into the black granite.

“One of the things we did was try to find the fallen,” said TAPS chairman Gary Newman. “We found them up until the end.”

The monument includes the names of soldiers from every major conflict that the U.S. has been involved in since Clay became a county, dating back to the Civil War and finishing up with a grouping of conflicts related to the war on terror. One side of the monument is left blank, a powerful reminder to those viewing the new site that more names could be added at any time.

Stars and stripes surrounded the event, with red, white and blue filling everyone’s vision as speakers took the podium to pay their respects and provide insight into what it means to honor veterans.

“These [soldiers] are honored not for what they received, but for what they gave,” said Clay County Board of County Commissioners member Gayward Hendry, dressed in full Marine regalia.

“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,” Hendry said, paraphrasing George Washington. “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. We will honor you.”

Each piece of the statue is symbolic of an idea Newman and the TAPS committee hoped to convey to those who would see it now and in the future. The base, etched with “REMEMBER THE FALLEN,” at the top, is made from black granite taken from the same quarry as the stone used for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. The bronze topper is made of three downturned rifles.

The group continued to stare at the structure as speakers read the names of the 66 Clay County residents who lost their lives at war, a Navy bell rang out after each name to signify the end of that soldier’s watch.

Sitting prominently in the courtyard under large oak trees, it is a powerful piece. The site has a solemness to it in the same way that famous national monuments evoke emotion in the viewer. This is different from a temporary sign, or a carved piece of concrete; Newman’s dream has been realized.

After the names had been read, attendees crowded around the monument. Paper and pencils were provided to make rubbings of names in the same manner visitors do at the Vietnam Wall. Orange Park resident Sheila Maguhn smiled as she held a piece of paper and slowly copied her son’s name – Sgt. Bradley S. Crose.

Crose, an Army Ranger, lost his life while serving in Afghanistan in 2002.

“I heard about [the monument] about six weeks ago,” Maguhn said as she held the piece of paper in her hands. “It’s such a blessing that they care, and that they remember him.”

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