Staff Photo: Erin Evans. Officials at the Georgia Veterans Memorial Park said they hope paver sales will generate revenue and raise awareness of the memorial. There are about 180,000 pavers available for sale at the Walk of Heroes, 900 feet of walkways that takes visitors to different areas comemmorating five wars America has been a part of in the 20th century. Pavers come in two sizes: 4 inches by 8 inches for $100 and 8 inches by 8 inches for $200.
CONYERS — After handing out flyers at Conyers Fabulous Fourth Festival, Tommy Clack realized how few people knew Rockdale County was home to a veterans war memorial.
"We were out handing out flyers, and I'd say about 90 percent of people said they had never heard of it," said Clack, chairman of the Georgia Veterans Memorial Park Foundation and office manager of the department of veteran services.
Clack said the goal of the foundation is to get the word out that the memorial exists and it is looking for help.
"Most citizens of this county, state of Georgia, metro Atlanta do not know what is out here," Clack said. "And when they come out here and see this, they see this they immediately want to be part of it."
Located near Black Shoals Park and beside Randy Poynter Lake, the Walk of Heroes sprawls over 900 feet and contains two pathways leading out to a stage, a fountain and statues of an eagle and five members of the military representing the military's five branches, as well as the last five wars America has been a part of.
The Walk of Heroes has been built in phases over the past 14 years. Right now, the memorial is in phase five. Clack said the next phase of the memorial will include a museum and amphitheater, among other projects.
To fund phase five, the Georgia Veterans Memorial Park Foundation will be selling pavers that will cover both paths leading to the stage, as well as the area surrounding the statue.
"This will give us the opportunity to not only honor individuals, but raise funds for the things we're doing out here," Clack said. "Eventually, this facility is going to cost $30 million-plus; we've spent $2.8 million to date. Our fundraising efforts are ongoing."
There are about 180,000 pavers in the memorial. They are being sold in two sizes: $100 for a 4-inch by 8-inch paver and $200 for an 8-inch by 8-inch paver. The Walk of Heroes offers a payment plan for the pavers — the only plan of its kind in Georgia.
In the area surrounding the statue of the members of the military, many of the pavers have already been purchased, including one for Gen. Ray Davis who served in three wars — WWII, Korea and Vietnam — and received the Medal of Honor.
"The point is there's only 180,000 of them (pavers) out here. There's 773,000 living veterans in Georgia right now. There's 26 million living veterans in America. That number's got to be reduced to terms of 180,000 people in who want to be here," Clack said. "And it's not just people that served in a wartime — it's anybody and everybody that put on a uniform, from WWI to date. It's an opportunity to perpetuate their service and history."
The memorial is free to enter and is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day except Wednesdays.
"This is not just a Rockdale County memorial; it belongs to Georgia and America. We're actually coining it in terms that it's actually going to be the Arlington of the South," Clack said.
Clack said the board of directors of the memorial and Rockdale County government have done a great job building and nurturing the memorial, but citizens should get involved in the project.
"Right now, we're going to churches, civic events just to get the word out that you've got something really awesome in your backyard," he said. "And it's not just going to be the board of directors that makes this happen. It's going to be citizens."
Even though many people may not yet know the Walk of Heroes exists, for those who do, the place holds a strong emotional draw.
"The guy at the gate told us that the man that put that flag out spent four hours here sitting on the wall," Clack said, pointing to a small flag wedged between two of the pavers at the entrance. "That's the kind of emotional tie you have out here. As long as the country exists, this place exists."
For more information about the Walk of Heroes memorial or paver order forms, visit www.walkofheroes.org or contact Tommy Clack at 770-786-2302.