Honoring Our Heroes

Plans progress to establish
Veterans Park in Crestwood

Local veteran Helton leads board
that is pushing the effort

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

CRESTWOOD, Ky. (August 2010) – Don Helton is among a group of individuals who envision a park for Oldham County like no other park in the United States. This group wants to establish an educational and living reminder of veterans who fought and died in wars, campaigns and military actions, while at the same time remembering Oldham County service members who died for their country.

Don Helton

Photo by Helen McKinney

Don Helton stands at the site
where he hopes a new Veterans Park
will soon be established.

Helton is Chair of the Board of Directors for the Veterans Memorial Park of Kentucky Inc. In a short space of time, the organization has collected a “very active board,” he said. All board members are veterans, with the exception of three individuals.
The board’s goal is to create a community gathering place so that “we need never forget the sacrifices vets have made for us,” said Helton, a Pewee Valley resident.
Veterans Memorial Park of Kentucky will consist of a 24,000-foot area adjacent to Veterans Memorial Parkway, a named segment of KY Hwy. 329 in Crestwood. The park will lie on property owned by the Board of Education, which will permit the park to be built next to the main entrance of South Oldham Middle School, South Oldham High School and Camden Station Elementary on Hwy. 146.
In regard to the park’s location next to several schools, “Many kids are not learning history in schools,” said Helton, who served in the U.S. Army from 1967-1977. “Freedom is not free.”
The park can be used as a hands-on teaching tool as well as a quiet place of reflection, he added.
The park will consist of a concrete walking path, plantings and benches. Also included in the park will be three types of markers: those that include inspirational quotes, markers that include the names of Oldham County veterans who died in military actions from all wars, and those with historical information about wars and campaigns in which Americans fought and died.
Veterans Memorial Park of Kentucky will unveil bronze markers each year around Memorial Day. The project is on schedule and organizers hope to have it finished by 2011.
“We’ve been blessed to have to spend very little so far due to donated services,” said Helton. “Our goal is to collect at least $100,000 for the final project and be self-sustaining.”
Veterans Memorial Park of Kentucky Inc. is a 501c3 non-profit organization. Their propose is two-fold. “We want to recognize the American veterans who fought and died, and educate the community, especially the youth, about the sacrifices that have been made for our country,” Helton said.
Although she didn’t serve in the military, this project is close to Cynthia Stafford’s heart because of her brother, Lt. Dennis Babers, U.S. Marine Corp. Lt. Babers died in 1967 at age 23 and Stafford has “a deep and abiding respect for veterans, especially Vietnam vets,” she said.
Stafford is the director of HDB Services Group. The initials, HDB, are her brother’s initials and served as an inspiration to start the non-profit. Her brother’s story can be found at www.hdbservicegroup.com.
Stafford likes the idea of a park-like setting for the memorial. The Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., is a “very moving place,” she said, but not set in a park.
The Veterans Memorial Park of Kentucky will be an interactive park, she said. “It will be a great tool for schools as well. You can’t always just learn something in a book. It will be a historical experience for students.”
Stafford said the park will be a great place for events and she hopes it will attract people from all over the country, not just Oldham County. “I hope people in the community and the state support it.”
“We are very excited to have the Veterans Memorial Park of Kentucky added to our attraction list in Oldham County,” said Kim Buckler, executive director of the Oldham County Tourism Commission. Buckler said the park will be an attraction that can be promoted across the entire state.
She noted that with Crestwood and Pewee Valley having unique attractions such as Yew Dell Gardens, the Little Colonel Playhouse and the Confederate Cemetery, “Veterans Memorial Park of Kentucky will fit in nicely with the crowds who are attracted to those sites.” As soon as the park has been established it will be added to tourism literature and the www.TourOldhamCounty.com website. “We certainly look forward to the unveiling and future promotion of the park.”
The main reason Lambert Franklin is the park board’s Vice Chair and supports the project is because “I am a veteran.” Franklin served in the U.S. Air Force from 1971-1979.
The park will “focus on vets from Oldham County who have served and fallen in all the different wars,” he said. “It is unique because the focus in on local people.”
Many local companies have donated labor and materials to the building of this park: Garber-Chilton Engineers & Surveyors Inc., Scott-Klausing & Co. Architects & Planners, Ernst Concrete (Kentucky Division), and Beechwood Trees & Garden.
“This is going to be unique,” said Helton. “Most memorials do not provide educational information. At this one, you can walk through and learn something.”

• Veterans Memorial Park of Kentucky seeks donations to support park development and maintenance. To support this project, contact Don Helton at (502) 243-9998 or visit: www.VeteransMemorialParkKY.com.

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