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Wall to honor military contributions, service

By Valerie Baldowski

vbaldowski@henryherald.com

Veterans and the public are expected to turn out for a tribute to the military scheduled for 3 p.m., today at the Veterans Wall of Honor.

The ceremonies will be at Heritage Park in McDonough at 101 Lake Dow Road. Flags from all 50 states have been donated for the event, and the newly completed wall will be dedicated.

Two of those eagerly anticipating the dedication are Cmdr. Kevin Godsey and Adjutant John Pierson, both with the Stokes-Morris American Legion Post 33 in Stockbridge.

Godsey, who spent 23 years in the U.S. Army, said veterans deserve honor because of the sacrifices they make, adding that a soldier's job is important.

"That's the whole thing, they're not in it for the pay," the 46-year-old Stockbridge resident said. "They're in it because they love their country. It's a 24-7 job, it's not like working a regular job."

Spending time away from family and loved ones is one of the most difficult aspects of serving in the military. "You're away from your family a lot," he explained. "It's a rough job."

The Wall-of-honor building project was organized by Stockbridge resident, Joanne Mulvaney, who served in the Navy and envisioned the project as a tribute to her father, Joseph Consalvo, a World War II veteran.

"Joanne is the founder and visionary of this wall," said Pierson, a Vietnam veteran who retired from the Army in 2001.

Pierson, whose father and uncles were World War II veterans, is happy to see veterans receive recognition. "I am so proud," he said. "I was there last week watching them put this [the wall] in. It actually brought tears to my eyes seeing this all come together."

The wall has battle scenes from the American Revolution through the Sept.11, 2001 terrorists attacks etched on its front, as well as panels bearing the names and dates of other military campaigns, in which the U.S. has been involved. Pierson said this is important for children to remember.

"We're planning on this being a teaching tool," he said. "We're hoping teachers bring their students there and have a history lesson."

Also expected to ride in to attend will be some members of the Rolling Thunder, a motorcycle group of Vietnam veterans, and the Legion Riders, another motorcycle group of American Legion members.

Pierson said Mulvaney even predicts visitors from other states. "She's saying there's going to be a lot of veterans coming in from other parts of the country," he said. "I'm hoping we will have significant numbers of veterans' groups and veterans' families turn out."

Pierson stressed that the wall is designed to be all-inclusive, in honor of all soldiers. "This is not a memorial. This is a living wall," he explained. "It's going to cover everybody who's involved in the military, past, present and those who may come in the future."

The dedication of the wall was organized to honor all veterans of the United States Armed Forces, and built with the help of a public-private partnership.

"We've actually sponsored the construction of the wall," Godsey pointed out.

Construction was financed by sales of commemorative bricks, fund-raisers and private donations, Pierson added. "It's been a collaborative effort between the American Legion Post 33, the Wall of Honor Board of Directors and the Henry County Board of Commissioners."

A flyover in a Blackhawk helicopter by members of the Georgia National Guard out of Winder will provide a dramatic start to the dedication ceremony. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle will be the keynote speaker. Vietnam veteran, Tommy Clack, U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland and State Sen. John Douglas will also speak.