HAMPDEN TOWNSHIP — When the Hampden Township Veterans Recognition Committee formed a nonprofit approximately five years ago, it did so with one intention — to honor area veterans. Guidelines for how to proceed weren’t actually crystal clear until serendipity stepped in and Giant Food donated a 17-acre parcel of land located near Wertzville and Valley Roads.
Commissioners approved the use of the land for the Captain Leon Lock Veterans Memorial and work began this summer. Funding for phase one of the project is now complete. Construction will wrap up this year and includes installation of a roadway from the Giant Food store parking lot to the creek, a stream crossing, a small parking lot and a paved path to the memorial. Phase two is set to begin after the first of the year.
The group chose the name of the memorial to honor Hampden Township resident and charter member of the committee Leon Lock, who passed away in 2014. “Leon served in the Army in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II and later in the Navy. We chose Leon because he is representative of all service members who leave their civilian jobs, go do their duty and later become successful businessmen and philanthropists,” said Gary Coburn, Chairman of the Veterans Recognition Committee.
Phase 2 of the project will include memorial construction and a berm to buffer noise against I-81 traffic at a cost of approximately $514,000. Robert Weed, Fundraising Chair and treasurer, said that the project has been warmly received by the community. “We segregated our supporters into several different categories: large corporations, civic organizations, veterans groups, foundations and the general public,” said Weed, adding that the group has started a modest checking account.
The multi-use park will feature an amphitheater concept centered around the five flags of the military branches, with seating for approximately 200 people. Walking trails will encircle the memorial with stops along the way, which Coburn describes as “interpretive nodes,” for visitors to learn more about various conflicts. The committee will be enlisting the help of the social studies students at Cumberland Valley to compile the data. “They will identify the correct number of conflicts and document the years and data from war to war. The park will serve as a gathering point for Veterans and Memorial Day observances and as a place to remind residents of the sacrifices made,” said Coburn.
As fundraising efforts for phase two continue, 10,200 pavers will be available for purchase at $100 for a small brick and $150 for a large brick. The committee will be reaching out to members of the community via Facebook and direct mail, according to Weed.
Phase 3, which is currently open-ended, will include installation of bathrooms, pavilions and lighting.
Coburn said he hopes that the memorial will be a fitting tribute to all who have served. “Hampden Township’s military tradition is a strong one. We started this committee to honor our township’s veterans and now we want to create a memorial that’s worthy of the sacrifices they made for our country.”
For updates, or to learn more about donating to the project, visit www.hampdenpaveterans.org.