Many people were responsible for making Nov. 11, 2020, a special day for veterans, the military and their families. The threat of rain forced the Veterans Day Ceremony to move into Florence Center. The staff and city employees, working on a holiday, made the transition quickly and smoothly.
Crowd estimates were about 300, less than half normal attendance for the annual event in the Veterans Park. This is attributed to the weather and the pandemic. It was a shame, because the city worked diligently to ensure the park looked great.
Media coverage by this newspaper and the local weekly was extraordinary both before and after the event. Pee Dee TV outlets covered well, interviewing participants and talking to guests who visited the park after the rain threat decreased.
Regrettably, as the emcee, I completely skipped a section of my notes thanking people most responsible for the USS Arizona Memorial. Besides the U.S. Navy’s gift, shipment by UPS from Pearl Harbor, Florence County Council’s annual assistance and the city of Florence, there was significant planning, hard work and innovation by local citizens.
Two U.S. Army veterans, father and son Bob and Chad Butler, used their talents and judgment to desalinize the rusty relic, a 277 pound, irregularly shaped piece of the bulwark that had been in the Pacific Ocean since 1941. First, they constructed a large waterproof container, and after extensive but gentle sanding, they submerged the relic to treat with chemicals and electrolysis. They visited the site regularly over several months to monitor progress. Bob and Chad deserve our gratitude for their tremendous resolve and dedication.
Willie Calder of Calder Machine Company and Garry Evans of Carolina Door and Hardware, provided ideas and experience about materials, mounting options and physical labor to the project, ensuring worthy accolades are provided to the USS Arizona and the 1,177 Sailors and Marines who were killed on Dec. 7, 1941.
Willie and Garry teamed with Bran Oswalt of Brown Memorials, a company that has provided guidance and expertise since the park opened in 2008. Bran’s artistry has gained an international reputation for his vision and originality. This collaboration resulted in an amazing design showcasing the USS Arizona Memorial and preserving its hallowed stature.
Bran’s design includes the relic encased in steel and glass, mounted on its foundation. Below the relic is a bronze depiction of the USS Arizona as it looked before being sunk on Dec. 7, 1941, taking the lives of 1,177 sailors and Marines. A plaque relating the ship’s history includes a facsimile of the U.S. Navy Letter of Authenticity.
It is with great regret that I failed to thank Bob, Chad, Willie, Garry, Bran and their co-workers in front of the audience for their singularly outstanding contributions.
BARRINGER F. WINGARD JR., COL. (R), U.S. ARMY
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!