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Veterans seek to add more to soldiers memorial
Group hopes to add engraved pavers, new landscape and entrance archway to Rock Creek Park
The War Memorial is at Rock Creek Veterans Park in Gainesville.

The plot of land began years as ago as a gateway to a string of parks connecting downtown Gainesville to Lake Lanier, with park benches and paths winding between trees and landscaped areas.

But Rock Creek Park later became Rock Creek Veterans Park as war memorials were added and commemorative brick pavers laid.

No formal plans are in place yet, but area veterans are hoping for even more improvements, including more pavers with veterans’ names engraved, additional landscaping and an archway at the park’s entrance off West Academy Street.

The park, which also sits off Northside Drive, “needs attention,” said Harold Goss, a Vietnam War veteran speaking at a Veterans Day ceremony at the park.

Goss, who served in the Air Force, is part of an informal group of Vietnam veterans who meet weekly for breakfast at Dairy Queen at 951 Green St., Gainesville.

With some outside help, including from the Hall County-based Korean War Veterans of Georgia, the group was able to lay commemorative bricks at the park’s main monument over the past year.

Each of the Dairy Queen group members spent $260 apiece to pay for the work, Goss said.

“These men ... have ideas, and we need your help,” Goss said. “We are not a chartered chapter. We need the community’s help.”

In addition to the archway, the park also has two oval areas “where we would like to put additional commemorative pavers” for veterans who have served in America’s wars.

Goss said he believes the area’s many active veterans groups should work together on the effort.

“We have veterans in the school system, police and fire departments, and in government positions,” he said. “We need to get our community involved in this project.”

Goss met with Will Schofield, superintendent of the Hall County school system, at the park a few weeks ago, to see if the district can offer a hand.

“I was very moved by what they are doing for our veterans,” Schofield said.

He said he is “reaching out to our Air Force ROTC group at Flowery Branch (High School) to see if the students would be interested in helping the local veterans raise funds awareness for the next phases of the park.

“I would sure like to see our students get involved in this project.”

Johnny Hulsey, another Vietnam veteran who has been active in building up the park, is confident the improvements can get done.

“We’re going to continue to work in this park and we’re going to build the arch,” he said. “We’ve got room for (another) 1,000 bricks, so we’re going to knock on people’s doors and ask for help.”

The park now has a monument dedicated to veterans of all 20th-century wars and individual monuments honoring veterans of the Vietnam and Korean wars.

In 2012, the Korean War monument got a $14,500 boost from Korean-Americans living in Georgia.

During a ceremony in July that year, Sunny K. Park, founder of the Doraville-based Good Neighbor Foundation, said the money represented just a small repayment for what U.S. veterans did to save his country from communist forces in the 1950s.

“There’s no words we can find to thank you,” he said.

Goss said he sees park improvements both honoring veterans but also featuring a gardenlike setting.

“I can see where even a veteran would want to have a wedding in that park, if it’s constructed in the right way,” he said.

Melvin Cooper, Gainesville Parks and Recreation director, said he supports the veterans’ plans, noting the department’s board of directors already has endorsed the archway project.

“Of course, it would have to go through the planning department to make sure it meets code and everything,” he said.

He said original plans called for a fountain to be placed in a greenspace in the middle of the park, but with the veterans’ aspirations, that could change.

“We’re just leaving it (as is) for right now just to see if the veterans have any other ideas (for) improvements,” Cooper said.

Regardless of future plans, he said he likes how the park is looking now.

“I don’t know of any better way that we can honor our veterans,” he said.