By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – Retired Marine Lt. Col. Rex Moody, Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton and others plan to use shovels Monday to bury skepticism about a planned replica Vietnam Wall memorial and F-105 aircraft display at Veterans Park.
The ambitious plans aim to show respect to fallen soldiers and bring visitors to the city.
The 11 a.m. groundbreaking ceremony at Veterans Park in east Tupelo will officially begin construction on the projects to enhance the park and add to existing memorials.
Volunteers spearheading the project plan to raise an estimated $850,000 in cash and in-kind work toward the Vietnam Wall project and $50,000 or more for display of the F-105 Thunderchief.
Fundraising efforts are continuing as the projects begin.
The first phase of the projects will involve the city paving a parking lot area for the 200-foot long memorial wall and installing the base used to display the aircraft.
Organizers for the F-105 project had mentioned Memorial Day as a target installation date for the aircraft but now consider July 4 as a possible date. No completion date has been set for the Vietnam Wall project.
Moody and other volunteers started planning the replica Vietnam Wall more than three years ago. Moody said the memorial will help show the public still respects and remembers soldiers who sacrificed on behalf of the nation’s ideals and interests.
“The wall here will be a healing statue for all of the veterans who served in the war,” said Moody, who served two tours of duty in Vietnam. “It will have a ton of meaning for them and their families.”
The city has committed $150,000 combined toward the projects, seen as potential patriotic tourism draws.
“In addition to it being the right thing to do to honor veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice, it’s beneficial to the park and economic development for the city of Tupelo,” Shelton said.