With the Scotland County Veterans Memorial Garden nearing completion, stone mason Malery Oxendine said the project was a highlight of a 28-year career in masonry.
“It has been special to me,” Oxendine said. “I was honored when they asked me to work on it.”
The garden was planned by the Scotland County Legion Post 50 to be a first-of-its-kind memorial to area veterans. The project is expected to open officially on Veterans Day in November.
Oxendine has done a lot of work over the years of all kinds, from small commercial projects, to larger projects involving many thousands of square feet.
“This one stands out, though” Oxendine said.
The expandable project currently features eight completed walls, each bearing bricks engraved with the names of veterans.
Two other walls are currently being finished and filled with bricks.
A lifelong supporter of the military, Oxendine believes that support for the men and women of the armed forces should be unqualified.
“We will not always agree with the politics involved, but we should stand behind the soldiers that have been sent out there.”
The wall currently features the name of one Revolutionary war patriot alongside the names of veterans of nearly all of America’s armed conflicts, right up to the current military action in Afghanistan.
Working on a project that will honor Vietnam veterans especially appealed to Oxendine because of the poor reception that awaited them when they returned home from Asia after the war.
“When they came back home they caught a hard time, when they were just sent over there to serve their country,” Oxendine said.
So moved was Oxendine by the idea of dedicating something as permanent as a brick to memorialize veterans that he purchased several bricks himself. One was paid for in honor of a family member wounded at Iwo Jima.
Oxendine believes that when taking a few moments to look over the names on the walls that one can truly understand how many local people have served their country and been affected by war.
“There are many people I recognize there. Many people I know personally. And that brings it all home for me.”
In addition to its honorary meaning, the unique nature of the project also stands out to Oxendine.
“As far as I know, this is not like any other memorial in our area — where any veteran from any war we’ve had in this country can put a name there they like.”
The veterans garden project is also distinct in the response it has elicited from members of the community, Oxendine said.
“Lots of people stop by, and if I can help them locate a name, I’m glad to. The project is special.”
Post 50’s Dan Skamperle said that landscaping work, provided courtesy of Lowe’s, will begin in earnest after Oxendine finishes pouring the last bit of concrete on the property.
“Malery’s work has been really great, and he’s done a great job. The (garden) has gotten a huge response from people all around,” Skamperle said.
Bricks are dedicated at a cost of $50 per brick. There are currently spots available on the final two walls, one of which is partially completed already.