The hardest battle some veterans in York County fought after Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan didn’t require a rifle or a tank. They fought for a place in downtown York to honor 249 men who died in wars.
After years securing the land, money and permits, the new York County Veterans Memorial monument was installed Wednesday.
It will be opened to the public Saturday, after York’s annual Veterans Day parade.
The new monument is next to the York County Library branch at East Liberty and Garner streets in downtown York.
The new monument has 34 new names found by researchers who determined the men had died “in theater during war” and were deserving of being on the monument, which honors those killed in action during wartime.
“Every person in York County can be proud of this monument,” said Mike Harris, 73, a Vietnam war combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient from York.
Harris, who was wounded in Vietnam, also lost his best friend in the war.
“The spotter on my sniper team died from a bullet meant to kill me in Vietnam,” Harris said. “I lived. He died. That should have been me who was dead.”
Harris paused and pointed at the new monument.
“They all are heroes,” Harris said.
The granite and marble monument that bears the 249 names was created and installed by Gaulden Monuments of Rock Hill.
Leitner Construction added grounds work as a public service to make the area a public park, said York County Councilman Robert Winkler.
“This monument will be a place where every person in York County can pay tribute to those who served,” Winkler said.
The monument culminates years of planning by the York County Veterans Advisory Council.
The memorial replaces an older monument, honoring war dead from World War I through Afghanistan, that was in a cemetery off U.S. 321 between York and Clover.
Veterans J.J. Mattingly and Ronnie Taylor of York worked with other veterans to make the new monument accessible to the public.
The middle part of the monument says simply: “In memory of those who served and those who died in all wars.”
“This is the people’s monument,” Taylor said.
Veterans Day is Sunday and is observed on Monday.
A ceremony unveiling the monument is 10:30 a.m. Saturday, following the annual York Veterans Day Parade that starts at 10 a.m. and runs through downtown on Congress Street. The parade and unveiling are free and open to the public.
Harris said he hopes people with no connection to the military attend the parade and see the monument on Saturday.
“This monument here is York and York County,” Harris said. “This monument is America.”
Want to go?
What: York Veterans Day Parade and York County Veterans Memorial monument unveiling
When: Parade started at 10 a.m. Nov. 10, followed by monument unveiling
Where: The parade runs through downtown York on Congress Street. The monument is at Liberty and Garner streets.