World War II memorial, documentary in works to honor fallen servicemen from Arlington

Posted Friday, May. 17, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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A closer look • To make a donation to the memorial project, contact the Arlington Historical Society at 817-460-4001. • A teaser for UT Arlington’s documentary can be viewed at vimeo.com/utafilm/review/64160444/d523468823. Armed Forces Day A ceremony set for Saturday, Armed Forces Day, at the downtown library to salute military heroes will feature items from the historical society’s World War II collection. The library will unveil a World War II digital archives collection. Opening ceremonies at noon near the Col. Kearby statue will be followed by a presentation called “Arlington’s Gold Star Boys” by Wanda Marshall. At 1:30 p.m. Aaron Holt from the National Archives will give tips on how to find U.S. military records. Vintage military vehicles, high school ROTC groups from Arlington and Summit high schools, and a book and audio display from the war era are also planned.

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As the number of World War II veterans here and across the country steadily diminishes, the Arlington Historical Society is working on a memorial and a documentary to honor Arlington men killed during the war.

The society is proposing to build a memorial at the downtown library. It would include two granite monuments inscribed with the names of the fallen servicemen and would be located near a statue of Medal of Honor recipient Col. Neel Kearby.

At the same time, the historical society will be working with the film department at the University of Texas at Arlington on a documentary about the era. It will portray the men’s backgrounds using interviews, photographs, maps and other artifacts.

Historical society Executive Director Geraldine Mills said the project is an important next step because several generations of residents are unaware of the sacrifices of the hometown men.

“Two Arlington High School graduates were killed during the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941, and we know of about 40 hometown men that died before the end of the war in 1945,” Mills said.

“We want the present and future generations to be aware of their sacrifices with a monument bearing their names,” she added.

Council approval

The Kearby statue, also a project of the historical society, was completed in 2010. The proposed memorial would be located on the library’s west lawn.

It would include landscaping and lighting features along with retaining walls and a flag.

Volunteers have secured pledges from private donors for about $30,000 of the nearly $60,000 needed to complete the two monuments, and an application for a $16,400 grant from the Arlington Preservation Fund was submitted this year.

The city’s Landmark Preservation Commission reviewed the application at its April meeting and voted to recommend the project for approval by the City Council. The council is scheduled to consider the application at its afternoon work session May 21.

Mills said the location is accessible and visible and is ideal considering that many of the men who died lived and went to school and church only a short distance from it.

“Many of our residents will recognize the names on the marker, and some of the boys still have family here in town,” she said.

Believing that Arlington’s war story would make a good film, Mills approached UT Arlington about getting involved.

Professor Mark Clive, the film project coordinator at the department, agreed to help. Serving as executive producer, he and three undergraduate students have worked on the film for months.

The film, called Small Town Courage, documents Arlington’s military legacy — and its fallen in particular — using photographs, maps and other elements provided by UTA Library Special Collections and the historical society.

“It was something I was eager to pursue because of my continued focus on community service learning opportunities for my students,” Clive said.

Although the students on the project have now graduated, he said they will continue working on the documentary as volunteers. They expect to finish it this year and plan to enter it in film festival competitions.

In one clip, Clive describes the project as “a film about the men of Arlington, Texas, who gave their lives for their country in World War II. The story weaves together the circumstances of the men themselves, their families and the community.”

Partnerships, volunteers

Besides UTA, the memorial project involves partnering with various city departments, including the Urban Design Center — itself a collaboration between the city and the university.

Center project manager Lyndsay Mitchell worked with graduate students to design the concept and provide renderings. The Parks and Recreation Department would construct the memorial with funds from the historical society and would provide future maintenance.

Graham Associates has offered to donate engineering services, and Downtown Arlington Management Corp. has offered to pay for the flags.

Arlington resident Clete McAlister, along with Richard Aghamalian, Wanda Marshall and Tarrant County Tax Assessor-Collector Ron Wright, a former council member, are among the volunteers working on the project.

McAlister said he believes Arlington needs more reminders of its rich past, especially downtown.

“A memorial to Arlington’s World War II heroes would fit in beautifully with the existing footprint of the Neel Kearby statue memorial as well as the nearby Andrew Hayter bust at Founders Plaza,” he said.

“The significant role of North Texas Agricultural College [now UTA] in providing officers to the war effort should be recognized and celebrated,” he added. “Much of that connection was lost when UTA tore down Memorial Stadium, named in honor of its World War II heroes, and replaced it with Maverick Stadium. This planned memorial will help reconnect us to that history.”

McAlister is also a board member of the Veterans Park Foundation and said the downtown project has an entirely different focus than the one at Veterans Park that honors all military veterans.

“This project serves a different purpose, which is to honor, near their homes, a specific group of American heroes who sacrificed their lives in the greatest armed struggle of the 20th century,” he said.

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