May 28, 2016 - 8:15 am
With a thunderous flyover by a pair of fighter jets and applause from 2,000 veterans and families, Gov. Brian Sandoval dedicated the long-awaited Nevada Veterans Memorial on Friday, saying, “This will be the gathering place for the ages.”
“Today on this ground we remember all those we’ve lost and those who have served our beloved United States of America,” Sandoval said.
The official opening of the privately funded $2.2 million memorial outside the Sawyer Building came after the last larger-than-life statues were unveiled: a pod of troops fighting the global war on terror.
The centerpiece scene at the 2-acre site stands at the foot of stone terraces with 18 metal-alloy and bronze statues backed by walls of black granite engraved with historic quotes. They represent the nation’s war eras all the way back to the Revolutionary War.
They offer a public place for learning about history and a place for survivors of those lost in battle to reflect, Sandoval said.
“The stories of the men and women here have already immortalized the heroism of the American veteran,” he said. “We should be mindful that the story we dedicate is much larger than the place where we gather today.”
Sandoval said the memorial “is a place for the generations to come; a place of respite and repose, memory and reflection; where stories can be remembered in silence, or told with pride as we humbly attempt to understand the dedication and sacrifice of the fighting soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who grace the pages of our history and live forever in our hearts.”
Dave Hugus, a Vietnam War veteran and Purple Heart recipient from Henderson, said the memorial recognizes all veterans and Vietnam-era veterans in particular.
“It is most gratifying to see an outpouring of people’s appreciation of our service,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming.”
Vietnam War vet Bill Anton of North Las Vegas, a member of the Army Ranger Hall of Fame, said, “This is a great tribute to all the veterans in Las Vegas and the state of Nevada. We finally have a memorial that is world-class for our veterans.”
American Shooters Inc., a local veteran-operated gun range, launched the project in 2009 with donations from businesses and individuals across the U.S. channeled through the nonprofit Las Vegas Veterans Memorial Foundation.
“These are our veterans, ordinary people doing extraordinary things,” said Dan Starks, American Shooters owner and the foundation’s founder. “This memorial will continue to thank you every day, all day, long after all of us have passed away many hundreds of years into the future.
“This memorial educates us and future generations about our history, about our connections with generations of veterans who came before us. It connects us with generations of veterans who will come after us. It educates our generations and future generations about our values, about what kind of human behavior we deem important enough to deserve a memorial of this scale.”
Sculptor Douwe Blumberg, who designed and produced the statues, said he feels “like a marathon runner crossing the tape. … It marks the end of a six-year journey, which was never just another cool, artistic endeavor but from Day One a passion and a labor of love for our veterans.”
The dedication was held Friday so visitors can see the statues and the quotes behind them during Memorial Day weekend. Behind the statue of a Korean War sailor gripping a 5-inch shell is a quote from World War II Army Gen. Omar Bradley.
“Battles are won by the infantry, the armor, the artillery and air teams, by soldiers living in the rains and huddling in the snow. But wars are won by the great strength of a nation — the soldier and the civilian working together,” the panel reads.
The roar of F-15 Eagles from Nellis Air Force Base kicked off the dedication ceremony. The military jet noise, often described as the “sound of freedom,” drowned out a few of bars of Nevada Air Guard Maj. Melissa Beauchamp’s rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” but she finished with a powerful crescendo of “the home of the brave.”
“Look around you,” Sandoval told the sun-drenched audience. “These are the heroes among us who represent something larger than all of us: a way of life, freedom for us to be what we want to be, say what we want to say and worship how we choose to worship.”
Contact Keith Rogers at email@example.com or 702-383-0308. Follow @KeithRogers2 on Twitter.