By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Bill Rieves and T.C. Gibbs saw an empty spot where they thought a monument should be.
About four months ago, they realized Veterans Park in Tupelo doesn’t have a marker in honor of those who served overseas and at home during World War II.
“Bill is a good organizer,” Gibbs, 89, said. “He put his head and mind into it. When he does that, things start to move.”
The Tupelo residents put out the call to their friends, and raised $8,000. Donations ranged from $5 to $1,000.
“There was no fundraising, no drive,” said Rieves, 85. “We let it be known to our friends and veterans and told them we needed some money, and they responded.
“Just the other day, somebody said, ‘Hey, Bill, do you need any more money?’
“I said, ‘No. We’re OK.’”
The monument weighs about 8,000 pounds. It has a 10-inch base, and it’s 4 feet by 5 feet.
The marker was created in a style similar to monuments at the park that honor those who served in Korea and Vietnam. There’s also a Veterans of Foreign Wars marker.
The World War II monument will be surrounded by a pair of benches that will allow people to look out over the lake at Veterans Park.
A dedication ceremony is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday. All veterans, as well as their families and friends, are invited. Lawn chairs are advised.
“The World War II veterans are getting scarce,” Gibbs said, “but there are relatives, children and grandchildren. This is for them, too. We’re hoping for a good number of people to come on out.”
A jet from Columbus Air Force Base is scheduled to fly over Veterans Park during Saturday’s dedication service.
Rieves served in the Navy, and was in Tokyo Bay on the day Japan surrendered. An Air Force veteran, Gibbs was a nose gunner on a B-24 Liberator and spent time in a German prisoner of war camp.
Both men said the monument was meant to honor everyone’s contribution during World War II, and that included the sacrifices families had to make on the homefront.
“We didn’t want to put any names on it,” Rieves said. “We wanted it to represent all veterans. If they served during World War II, we wanted them to be represented.”
Gibbs and Rieves said the effects of World War II can still be felt on American society. It was a horrible but important piece of history.
Thanks to their efforts, a solid reminder of that history will stand at Veterans Park.
“We wanted to see it done in our lifetimes, and we’re aware time is ticking,” Rieves said, “so we just got busy. We got busy and got it accomplished.”
Gibbs added: “I hope the good Lord gives us a good day on Saturday.”
Contact M. Scott Morris at (662) 678-1589 or firstname.lastname@example.org.