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The public unveiling for the Hardin County Veterans Tribute at the Elizabethtown Nature Park is growing legs.
The committee coordinating the tribute’s creation met Monday with city officials, Fort Knox staff and local veterans organizations at Fort Knox Leader’s Club. The plan was to ensure the framework of the Nov. 11 opening ceremony adequately honors veterans and civil service workers and is designed to accommodate the physical needs of visitors.
The committee met specifically to gather input from veterans on what should be included and how the ceremony should be arranged.
Connie Shaffery, a former Fort Knox public affairs officer assisting with the ceremony, said the committee wants to cover every aspect needed while staying within a one-hour timeframe. One plan, she said, is to have each service flag and song featured.
Ryan Brus, Fort Knox public affairs officer, said discussions also have surfaced about partnering active-duty soldiers from the post with local retired veterans to introduce each of the six sculptures and monoliths representing the five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces and civil service.
Brus said Fort Knox will lend military equipment and vehicles, including aviation elements, and is working with the Department of Defense on a flyover for the ceremony.
While it is not a Fort Knox event, Brus said, post officials are interested in making the ceremony a premiere event for active duty veterans and retirees.
The 113th Army band is expected to provide music, and the national anthem will be performed, Shaffery said. Bob Fulkerson, a member of the American Legion Post 113 Riders, requested the Pledge of Allegiance be included.
In addition, the committee is working on a plan for speakers. Shaffery said brief comments from tribute sculptor Rich Griendling, committee member Rik Hawkins and Elizabethtown Mayor Tim Walker will be included.
The group is considering the draw of a national politician or celebrity with military ties. Griendling has contacted a friend with celebrity connections and offered him a list of names, which includes former U.S. Secretary of State and retired four-star general Colin Powell and television news broadcaster Tom Brokaw, Hawkins said.
John Campbell, a Fort Knox community relations officer, cautioned the group about luring a national star because it could detract from the purpose of the ceremony. Campbell said the tribute should not be eclipsed by the star power of a single visitor.
Walker said he understood Campbell’s concerns but a well-known speaker who identifies with the military could provide a boost for the ceremony and serve as a treat for veterans.
Organizers also want veterans to participate, but Hawkins said they should not miss the “goosebump” moments from the ceremony because they are 2 miles away parking cars.
“I don’t want you to be so busy doing things you miss that moment,” he said.
Parking for the ceremony could play a role depending on weather. Hawkins said there is plenty of parking on pavement and grassy areas at the Nature Park if weather is dry, but organizers must develop alternative plans.
Walker said the city will speak to the church adjacent to the Nature Park about using its parking lot during the ceremony and contact Transit Authority of Central Kentucky to arrange shuttle service for visitors.
Walker plans to make an appeal to the state to close a portion of Ring Road from the area near Target just past the park. Hawkins said closing the road would make sense from a safety standpoint because it could be treacherous for visitors crossing the busy roadway.
Meanwhile, the committee will approach nearby churches and request use of their parking lots and buses to shuttle visitors.
Discussion turned to a designated area for motorcycles during the ceremony, but Fulkerson warned handicapped drivers will want the same.
Veteran representatives asked the committee to accommodate older veterans who have handicaps and are in wheelchairs.
“Shuttle service is the way to go on that,” said Clint Meshew, a local veteran service officer.
Meshew said the committee could set up a staging area for the shuttle to pick up visitors and usher them to the tribute site. He also asked the committee to coordinate with local nursing homes, so veterans in assisted living situations can attend.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or email@example.com.