Florence Veterans Park
Woody Jones Blvd
Florence, Florence County, South Carolina
"Dedicated November 11, 2008 to all Pee Dee area veterans who have proudly served in the United States Armed Forces"
"In honor of Purple Heart recipients
They paid for our free with blood
All gave some, some gave all"
"To the men and women who answered the call
"In honor of all American Prisoners of War and Missing In Action
Dedicated by Rolling Thunder®
South Carolina Chapter 4 Florence
What an incredibly well designed and executed memorial park! The Florence Veterans Park is very large and designed with several compartmented areas blending into an overall presentation honoring all six of the services and appropriately remembers the individuals that have served. Rarely have I seen the willingness to devote this much space to a monument area, especially at a county or city level.
The first feature that visitors notice is a large eagle scuplture held by three pillars. Each side of the pillars holds one of the service seals; Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, Air Force, and Merchant Marine. Beyond that, establishing the rear boundary of the park, is a marble wall upon which is etched the Oath of Enlistment - in letters large enough that no visitor can avoid reading those words we veterans recited. The words and ideals that bound us to our commitment to the Constitution and the nation.
The bulk of the 'mall' area is set aside for six contemplation areas that seemed to be reserved for each of the services. Currently only one is highlighted by a marker - the US Marine Corps League welcomes visitors with the admonishment of "Once a Marine, Always a Marine."
Other free standing monuments recognize POW's, veterans of Desert Storm, and Purple Heart Veterans. There is so much room that I have no doubt others will join these. And they are not the usual tombstone like blocks of granite and marble most would expect. They have unique shapes and colors that let the visitor understand somebody really cared about how these monuments would be viewed.
In the far southeast corner of the park a circular contemplation area with a wire pergola atop several granite pillars. They are not inscribed and I don't think they will be - it's obvious that the creeping flowers here will ultimately cover the overhead and offer a welcome bit of shade for visitors that wish to just sit and ponder their years as a member of a military service, to remember a service member that did not return or one that has crossed over the bar to serve in ways we can only imagine.
The northeast corner is a semi-circular area that appears incomplete. I can only assume that ultimately it will hold an Honor Roll presentation of some sort. Unfortunately, the concrete benches that help highlight this area have been scarred by skateboarders who have no appreciation of this significant effort to honor their elders that served.
The northwest corner is a unique and exciting twist on the 'paving block' subscription theme popular in many communities. Here the individual veterans are not honored with a simple brick painted with a name. Faces, medals and awards, and service seals accompany the names and service data as they are etched upon dark marble panels hung from concrete standards. Simply put, this is the best subscription theme I've yet seen in more than 600 memorials I've visited. Currently 468 veterans are remembered here and there seems to be enough space to accommodate another 1,500.
Of the 468 veterans remembered in this section there are NO Coast Guardsmen depicted and just one Merchant Mariner. Visitors that spend much time looking at the photos I've collected and presented on this web site will have noticed that at nearly every 'paving brick' subscription area I've been able to find at least a few Coasties. I go out of my way to show them. It's my own subtle way of honoring my own shipmates, by emphasizing that we have proudly worn the shield on our arm and stood with the nation continuously since August 4th, 1790. I find it difficult to believe there is not even one family in this area willing to pay the subscription fee to honor their Coastie. So I wonder, is there is a difficulty in the way the subscription committee is handling their outreach program?
Regardless of this personal pique, I find that I willingly violate one of my own prohibitions against favoritism and state that this is likely the best veterans memorial in this state. If you served you need to see this park. If you didn't you should stop and stand in front of the Oath of Enlistment for a moment and then walk over to the subscription panels and contemplate the deeds of what only about ten percent of the citizens of our nation have done for us. They stepped forward when others would not. They recited that oath when others could not find a voice. They answered a call that others did not hear, or chose to ignore. And when asked to sacrifice in myriad ways that will never be understood by those that remained at home - they complied.