MIDWEST CITY — A dream became reality Friday.
Retired businessman Andy Cornelius went on a quest a few years ago to have a U.S. flag placed in Joe B. Barnes Regional Park. That led to a full-fledged veterans memorial, which was dedicated Friday with nearly 300 people in attendance.
“I would've been happy, frankly — I first talked to Ron Sullivan I believe — with a flag, a flagpole and a hole in the ground and a bit of cement,” Cornelius said during the ceremony. “I think sometimes he wished he had said yes, would've been a little quicker.”
The memorial, which was not completely finished in time for the dedication, features three flagpoles and pavers inscribed in memory of veterans.
Project Chairman Hiawatha Bouldin said he was not concerned about the work yet to be done. He said it is a living memorial, “not just brick and mortar, we want to keep it that way.”
Every branch of the military was represented at the ceremony.
Cornelius and members of his family raised the U.S. flag while Mayor Jack Fry and a representative from Hudiburg Auto Group raised the Oklahoma flag.
Former prisoner of war, Charles Selby, raised the POW and MIA flag.
Alfonoso Flores, a rifleman with the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 85 honor guard, said the memorial means a lot to him because he is a veteran with 38 years of service.
“When our veterans are recognized like this by a little memorial, it's a great honor,” Flores said.
“It is with humility and deep appreciation on behalf of the citizens of the city of Midwest City that we dedicate this memorial to the memory of those past, our present veterans and those that will choose to join the revered group,” Fry said.
State Sen. Cliff Aldridge, R-Midwest City and Rep. Gary Banz, R-Midwest City, presented the Gold Star medal and award to Kristin Chase and her son, Brett, in honor of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Lance M. Chase, killed in action Jan. 23, 2006 in Baghdad.
Placed behind Cornelius' seat was an unoccupied chair in honor of the Navy veteran the park is named in honor of, Joe B. Barnes.
Bouldin said the memorial is meant to be used for celebrations for many years to come.
“A special celebration we're planning is changing out the veterans flag on the birthdays of the sister services, all five of them,” he said.
“Whatever your reason for attendance today, we say thank-you for helping us show the kind of respect that this memorial is intended to reveal to the men and women that have served and to those that are presently serving to continue our way of life,” Fry said.