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Teaching opportunity: Veterans envision county park as educational tool

CONYERS - Two men from the "Greatest Generation" see the Georgia Veterans Memorial Park not just as a memorial to those who fought in past wars, but as something more that could help the next generation.

Val Archer and Bud Sosebee both served in World War II. Sosebee was an infantryman who fought in the Battle of the Bulge, and Archer flew missions as a crew chief with the Tuskegee Airmen. Both men said the Veterans Park being constructed in north Rockdale County is a wonderful opportunity to honor but also to teach.

"The focus has always been education, to let people not forget what sacrifice for one's country means," said Sosebee, a former Rockdale County commissioner.

Archer has a teaching background. He continued his service through the Korean War and worked on the intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, program. That was followed by long career in instruction and training before he retired to his home in south Rockdale County.

Archer said leadership skills developed by the military over the years are being absorbed into civilian culture, but he still sees many youths are not taking advantage of those lessons to get ahead in adult life.

"Those skills are, obviously, the importance of patriotism, scholarship and preparation for early career opportunities, which are on the increase right now," Archer said. "Unfortunately, too many of our kids are not really prepared to take advantage of most of the opportunities that are available now."

The first significant construction to the first phase of Veterans Park in almost five years began this summer and will have the presentation enclave, located at the end of the memorial, finished in time for a dedication ceremony on Veterans Day.

Organizers said the new enclave will be a venue for outdoor public gatherings and events and hopefully bring more attention to the park.

Located inside Black Shoals Park in north Rockdale County, Veterans Park will honor veterans from the five branches of the military, solders missing in action and prisoners of war MIA/POWs who served during the major conflicts of the 20th century.

The presentation enclave is situated on the opposite end of the Walk of Heroes from the main archway entrance. Planned between the two are war enclaves called the "War Front." These will provide a visual display of all major wars of the 20th century - World War I, World War II, the Korean Conflict, the Vietnam War and the Persian Gulf Wars.

A 600-foot temporary asphalt walkway will be installed between the main entrance and presentation enclave to show the layout of the park.

A second area called the "Home Front" will include a museum and other amenities.

Archer is active in the Tuskegee Airmen alumni group's Atlanta chapter, which offers several educational and mentoring programs for middle and high school students. He said Veterans Park has great potential to be a resource for the Tuskegee Airmen's educational programs that could serve not just metro Atlanta, but a larger audience on a regional and national level.

Archer said the lessons learned by those who will be honored at Veterans Park are still true today.

"Discipline, preparation and planning. Those are the foundations for practically any kind of developmental goals and so on," he said. "That probably will not change unless we get a new pill, or something. I don't think that's going to happen."

Jay Jones can be reached at jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.