Some local veterans and the city of York have teamed up in an effort to move the York County Veterans Memorial to downtown York.
TJ Martin of York, a Korean War POW and a key leader in establishing the veterans monument at Lakeview Memorial Gardens outside York 28 years ago, said he believes the monument needs to be moved.
Martin wants the stone monument moved to a grassy area on East Liberty Street, in front of the Greater York Chamber of Commerce and next to the York library.
“York does not have a veterans park,” Martin said. “It would be wonderful if we could do that. We could move the monument there, and people would be driving by to see it.”
There’s a catch with his idea, though. The property in question is owned by the Norfolk Southern Railway, and past efforts to use that area for a city park have gone nowhere.
But Martin thinks this idea may be different.
“A city park doesn’t have the significance of a veterans park,” Martin said. He believes the railroad company will be more receptive to the idea.
A spokesman for the Norfolk Southern Railway declined last week to comment on the use of the land. “We try to keep those transactions between us and the city of York,” the spokesman said.
The York City Council has agreed to embark on discussions with the railroad for the use of the property, at the request of the American Legion Post 66 in York.
Mayor Eddie Lee said earlier this week he has begun conducting discussions with the company’s property manager.
He said the discussions have been cordial, but that he has not received a definitive answer on the request to use the property.
Martin, a member of the Legion Post 66, has for many years organized York County’s annual Memorial Day service for veterans at Lakeview, near the veterans monument.
The stone monument, dedicated on May 25, 1986, bears the names of more than 200 local veterans who died while serving their country – including more than 100 killed in World War II alone.
But Lakeview Memorial Gardens, on U.S. 321 between York and Clover, is being sold.
Martin said he has been unable to get a firm commitment from the cemetery’s buyer that the annual service can continue to be held there.
Dana Elder owns the cemetery. Martin said veterans groups have had a verbal understanding with Elder that the Memorial Day service could be held there, and that there would be no funerals scheduled on that day.
“It would be impossible to have a funeral at that time,” Martin said about the Memorial Day service, which fills the cemetery with as many as 2,500 people.
The cemetery is in the process of being sold to a Greenville company, Cemetery Equity Solutions. Crystal Moss, office manager at Lakeview, said the company is operating the cemetery, but the sale is not complete.
Moss said the corporate office could not provide Martin with a statement in writing that the service could continue to be held there because its ownership of the property is pending.
However, Moss said, “we have not had burials on that day in the past because of the Memorial Day service. That’s the way we’ve always done it.”
Joe Medlin, service officer for York County Veterans Affairs, said it would be nice to have a veterans park in downtown York.
“It certainly needs to be looked at,” Medlin said. “That strip of property has gone unused for quite some time.”
Jim Carter, president of Legion Post 66, said the idea of trying to move move the monument has been approved by the York County veterans advisory council.
Carter said if a veterans park is established at the Liberty Street property, veterans also could gather there during the annual Veterans Day parade in November.
“You have the foot traffic, and people riding by so they would be able to see it,” Carter said. “It would be a lot more visible.”
Martin said he wants an agreement with the railway that would perpetuate the property for the use of a veterans park. That would require deeding the property to the city or giving the city a lifetime lease to the land, he said.
Said Martin: “I don’t want to have to move this monument again.”