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Veterans Wall dedicated on Fourth of July

Silvia Smitha points to her grandfather
Silvia Smitha points to her grandfather's name on the Veteran's Wall of Honor.
— image credit: Brett Cihon

Dozens of veterans, their friends and families gathered at the Port of Bremerton’s Marina Park in Port Orchard for the Fourth of July.

But they weren’t there to watch the fireworks or grab a burger from the one of the local food stands — that came later. First, they wanted to see names etched on a brick wall.

Members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Fred Needham Post 2669 of Port Orchard unveiled their newly built Veterans Wall of Honor during last week’s summer holiday. The 150-square-foot wall displays more than 1,110 commemorative bricks honoring the names of service members from all branches of the military, past and present.

The memorial wall was conceived of four years ago by the local VFW and serves as a monument to the “spirit and sacrifice” of everyone who ever wore a U.S. military uniform, said VFW Post 2669 Post Commander John Weatherill.

“This wall was built and dedicated to every person who served in the military,” Weatherill said. “It has been an honor to build this wall.”

The granite and rock wall garners a strong presence in Marina Park. Fifteen rows of 35 bricks on the back and front of the wall are expertly placed. A plaque is in front of the wall, and a granite etching runs across the entire top.

The wall’s design was conceived by the late Joseph Hovey, a longtime member of VFW Post 2269, more than four years ago, Weatherill said.

He and his brother, Robert, helped design the wall and fought for a place to build it. Hovey died of cancer in 2011 and the plaque at the front of the wall celebrates his name.

Weatherill said Hovey would have been proud of how the wall turned out.

“Actually, it turned out a little better than we imagined,” Weatherill said. “It’s really marvelous.”

Veterans of Foreign Wars representatives from across the state came to the holiday dedication ceremony. State Commander Krist Huseby said he had seen a number of dedication walls in his day, but the stone wall looking out over the Sinclair Inlet was one of the best.

“I’m very, very impressed,” Huseby said.

After a short dedication ceremony in which Weatherill spoke of the work done by Hovey and all of the 400 members of the local VFW, veterans and their families crowded in front of the wall to search for their name etched in brick.

Walden Smith was a veteran of the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War. A recipient of two purple hearts, Smith said it was about time there was a spot in Port Orchard that honored Kitsap County veterans and their sacrifices.

“I think this is the first military thing in the area they’ve set up,” he said. “It’s nice to get some credit.”

Smith said he purchased 12 bricks for fellow veterans who had either passed away or were on too tight an income to buy a brick. The money from the bricks, at $30 a piece, will go to fund the upkeep and maintenance of the wall for it’s lifespan, Weatherill said.

At the opening, the back wall was not completely finished, with the 500 or so bricks on the wall facing away from the bay to be  put on the wall sometime in August. And with about 150 bricks left to sell as of July 4, Weatherill said he wanted to have a full wall before they finished the backside.

“We’ll finish it in a day or so,” he said.

Kimberly Smitha, the daughter of veteran Walden Smith, said the wall had turned out better than she could have imagined. She knew the wall meant a lot to her father, who had recently been diagnosed with lung cancer.

“It’s beautiful,” she said. “It’s a great tribute.”

After the final bricks are placed on back wall, the local VFW will then turn its attention to fundraising for a brand new VFW Hall, Weatherill said. The local VFW is looking for a building that can act as an emergency shelter in times of crisis, Weatherill said. They are looking for a central location that can hold a lot of individuals and maintain a generator and other emergency supplies. He said the fundraising will be a longterm project, but that the sooner the VFW starts, the sooner a new building will be in place.

“We have a plan all drawn up,” he said.

 

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