MEMORIAL IN THE WORKS FOR FALLEN SOLDIERS OF THE KENTUCKY NATIONAL GUARD

Group needs $580K of $1.3M; selling tickets for upcoming concerts at Frankfort Convention Center

Story courtesy The State-Journal

By Katheran Wasson, Published: January 18, 2014 9:22PM

Click here for the original story.

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FRANKFORT, Ky. — It’s an idea that started “on a paper napkin” five years ago, but now the volunteers leading the effort to build a Kentucky National Guard Memorial in Frankfort are in the final stretch.

Joshua Witt, a volunteer and committee member with the Kentucky National Guard Memorial Fund, said the team is working to raise the remaining $580,000 toward its goal of $1.3 million.

Their plan is to break ground for the memorial — to be located on the Boone National Guard Center property at the corner of U.S. 127 and Louisville Road — on Memorial Day and dedicate it Veterans Day.

Witt said the Frankfort community could help raise a significant portion of the remaining balance by selling out the Frankfort Convention Center for a series of three concerts, the first of which is Feb. 8.

If volunteers are able to sell all 5,000 seats for all three shows, Witt estimated they would add $450,000 to the memorial fund’s coffers.

“None of us, as volunteers, are concert promoters,” Witt said, with a laugh. “But what we are is soldiers who really want to see this thing happen — even if you’re not a big fan, you can buy a ticket and know 100 percent of that is going to the memorial.”

The Feb. 8 concert features Delbert McClinton and Exile; The Kentucky Headhunters and Black Stone Cherry perform April 19; and The Charlie Daniels Band and Sundy Best take the stage Aug. 23.

Tickets for the first show are on sale now through etix.com. The average ticket price is $40, Witt said.

Witt is a first lieutenant and works full time for the Kentucky National Guard as a safety and occupational health manager. But the Winchester father of 11 said all the work he’s doing for the memorial is on his own time — as it is for everyone working on the project.

The memorial will feature a 22-foot wide granite stone bearing the names of Kentucky National Guard soldiers who have died in the line of duty. So far, 148 soldiers have been identified to have their names engraved on the stone, which was recently shipped from Africa to Vermont and will soon be finished in Louisville, Witt said.

The memorial will also include a 9.5-foot tall, solid bronze Daniel Boone statue and a 70-foot wide circle of pavers volunteers are calling the “sacred space.” It will have a separate entrance and its own parking, Witt said.

“When we look at those 148 soldiers we’ve lost since 1912 when we became the Kentucky National Guard, not just a militia, we want to make sure they’re recognized,” he said.

But for Witt, the drive to participate with the memorial effort is even more personal.

Eighteen of the names that will appear on the granite are of guardsmen lost since 2003, including Sgt. 1st Class Jason Jones, who died in 2006 in Baghdad of non-combat related causes. He was 29.

His father, Col. Charles Jones, was commander of his son’s unit in Iraq. Jones serves as a board member for the memorial fund, which is a registered nonprofit group.

“He (Jones) wouldn’t want the memorial to be about that, but I know that Jason’s name is going to be on it,” Witt said.

“This vision started because Col. Jones and I and others realized that people like Jason can never be forgotten. That’s why I’m prepared to do whatever it takes.”

The group’s fundraising effort has seen support from some big names. University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari donated $25,000, an amount the Walmart Foundation matched, Witt said.

The Kentucky Broadcasters Association also announced this week it would give $75,000. Witt said that’s the largest single donation the memorial has received.

But there have been smaller efforts too, such as the Harrodsburg middle school student who led an effort to sell T-shirts, raising $5,000.

The memorial’s website lists hundreds of donors — businesses, military groups, professional organizations, individuals and city and county governments.

Frankfort names on the list include developer C. Michael Davenport’s charitable foundation, which recently announced it would pay for flagpoles, flags and lights for the life of the memorial.

Davenport is named alongside Commonwealth Credit Union as a “three star” donor, providing more than $10,000 to the cause.

Other local donors include Franklin County Fiscal Court, Graviss McDonald’s restaurants and Harlan “Ike” Pinkston III, a guardsman who retired as a chief warrant officer four.

Pinkston said he flew to Fort Jackson in South Carolina the morning after he graduated high school in 1971. With his grandfather, father and brother all serving in the military, he said it was “in his blood.”

“For me, the guard is really special,” Pinkston said. “Giving to the memorial was the real deal for me because several of those people whose names will appear on it were my friends, who I knew personally and served with.

“I’m glad they’re doing something to honor them — and all guard folks.”

Anyone who would like to support the Kentucky National Guard Memorial may give to the effort online through Paypal. For more information or to donate, visit www.guardmemorial.com.

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