A 'living' memorial keeps growing

The Baltimore Sun

A pot of artificial flowers in red, white and blue flanks a granite memorial. American flags, forming a circle, flutter quietly in the wind.

The Avenue of Honors in Middle River's Holly Hill Memorial Gardens pays tribute to local veterans of World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Now, a veterans group is taking steps to honor soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Army Spc. Casey W. Nash, an Eastern Technical High School graduate who was 22 when he was killed by a bomb in May in Iraq, will be among the first honored by having his name engraved on the new memorial.

His sister says the memorial is a nice gesture. "It shows that the town cares enough about the fallen soldiers in Iraq," said Sara Nash, 20.

Army Pvt. Bryan Nicholas Spry of Kent County died in 2004 in Iraq. His name also will be placed on the memorial.

'Wonderful idea'

"Anything that would help remember these kids who are killed in Iraq and Afghanistan is a wonderful idea," said Spry's mother, Beverly Fabri.

Lamky-Luther-Whitehead Veterans Memorial Inc., a local nonprofit organization that created and maintains the Avenue of Honors, plans to hold a dedication ceremony for the new memorial on Veterans Day, Nov 11.

About 14 months ago, members of the organization began discussing the idea of a memorial to soldiers from the Baltimore County area who died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"After Casey's death, we decided we need to do it now," said Al Clasing, a World War II veteran who is president and founder of the group.

The Avenue of Honors, built in 1993, includes five large, rectangular granite slabs. Four of them hold the names of more than 100 Baltimore County soldiers killed in combat in World War I, World War II, Vietnam and Korea.

A monument in the center includes an inscription dedicated to fallen veterans and a Bible verse.

The central monument includes three flagpoles. The American flag flies from the tallest, in the middle.

Nearby are two stone benches donated by local American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary groups.

13 American flags

The central monuments are encircled by seven additional granite monuments and 12 more flagpoles, each with an American flag. The avenue's 13 American flags represent the original colonies. The organization hopes to eventually have 50 flags at the memorial.

The names on the central monuments are of those who died in combat. The organization reserved the outside monuments for the names of veterans who honorably served and survived wars. There are more than 400 names on those monuments.

"Most monuments are built and maintained. This one is living and will continue to grow," Clasing said. "We add new names to it every month."

New names

Veterans and their families from Baltimore County and the surrounding area can submit applications to the organization to have names engraved on the memorials.

The organization is asking relatives of soldiers from Maryland who were killed in Iraq or Afghanistan to contact it and authorize the addition of names to the memorial.

The group said letters of authorization can be sent to Lamky-Luther-Whitehead Veterans Memorial Inc., in care of William J. Edge Sr., 1300-R Scottsdale Drive, Bel Air 21015.

Holly Hill Memorial Gardens donated land to the nonprofit in the mid-1980s for the Avenue of Honors. The area is at the end of Valor Hill, the section of the cemetery reserved for veterans' graves.

Individual folders including biographical information on the soldiers whose names are part of the memorial and their reasons for entering the armed services are kept in the museum of the Heritage Society of Essex and Middle River, on Eastern Boulevard in Essex. They are on public view on Sundays or by appointment.

The museum's research room contains artifacts donated by families of veterans, including Purple Hearts and other medals, family heirlooms and mementos.

"We're very honored to have these items here," said Paul M. Blitz, historian of the Heritage Society of Essex and Middle River and a veteran of the war in Iraq. "We're looking forward to participating in the Veterans Day dedication ceremony."


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