On a headstone in Ireland there’s an inscription that reads; “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.”To Kaye Jordan, mother of Austin Staggs, she’s become all too familiar with the meaning of those sentiments, unfortunately. At the tender age of 19, Staggs lost his life when he was killed in action while serving his country on Nov. 29, 2010. That is why it has become the mission for the 52-year-old to make sure her son, and others like him, are never forgotten. Jordan, with the help of others, decided the best way to accomplish that was with the construction of a memorial park so everyone can show their respects and honor the military men and women of Parker County - past, present and future. What’s more is the City of Weatherford has agreed.“The City is committed to assisting Ms. Jordan as well as the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and American Legion (AL) in their effort to establish a memorial to all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to this nation through their service,” City Manager Jerry Blaisdell said. “The city has agreed to allow the site to be constructed at Soldier Spring Park and, therefore, will be involved in the design, development, up-keep and maintenance of the location. This is a partnership that should result in a veteran’s memorial that will honor all of those who have served this nation through their military service and sacrifice.”Danielle Felts, Director of Parks, Recreation and Special Events, said when the city was approached by the local VFW, American Legion and Gold Star Families to relocate the future home of a local veteran’s memorial from the site previously designated on Eureka Street to Soldier Spring Park, both the Park Board and the City Council agreed and voted unanimously.“As the site plan for the memorial was designed for the site originally dedicated - a location with completely dissimilar surroundings and very narrow boundaries - staff recommended that Park Dedication Fees be utilized to cover the expense of a concept plan for the new site at Soldier Spring Park,” Felts said. “Both the Park Board and the City Council voted unanimously to do so.”The concept plan being developed by Dunaway includes data gathering, site analysis, programming and conceptual studies and consensus concept plan in large color format, along with cost estimates; all items the City felt necessary for the groups to have as they work to secure funding for the project. In addition to visuals for prospective donors, the final concept plan, which requires Park Board and Council approval, will “ensure that everyone involved, presently and in the future, are aware of the direction the project is headed.”Felts added that an initial meeting including VFW, American Legion, Gold Star Families, city staff and Dunaway was held to gather information that will lead to a design concept over the next several weeks. It was a chance for Dunaway to meet and listen to the stakeholders before actually drawing lines paper. “Dunaway provided some initial observations of the park site as it exists today, showed a few benchmark images of other designs that have been done, and recorded group input that will contribute to creating a program list,” Felts said.Max Kassera, Chaplain for VFW Post 4746, said the original plot of land designated for a Veteran’s Memorial Park revealed problems during the planning stages, not only with parking but road traffic.“Later, the City of Weatherford offered us a tract of land, which is now called Soldier Spring Park,” Kassera said. “At this particular time, our planning and momentum had slowed and we needed something to prompt us to regroup.”That’s when Gold Star Families stepped in. Kassera said they then had three groups that could jointly plan on the Memorial Committee.“The Gold Star Families were exactly what was needed to stimulate us further in the planning of the memorial,” Kassera said. “The Gold Star Families were the shot in the arm, so to speak, which prompted new ideas to be brought forth.”Kassera said Gold Star Families has a “mission, a goal and they are great partners in making certain that the Veterans Memorial will be an honor to the troops, past, present and future.” “As to the individuals of the Gold Star Families, which I have had the extreme pleasure of working with, I can only say that they are some of the nicest, most caring people I have ever had the good fortune to meet,” Kassera said. “Kaye Jordan was their chairman and when they joined with the VFW and the AL, [she] became the chairman of our combined committee.”He said Jordan and her group were the “spark plug” that their committee needed to breathe new life into the memorial pursuits. “Now, we have the momentum and the fundraiser and silent auction on Sept. 28 at the Silverado Arena and we hope and pray that the citizens of Parker County will support us as generously as those we have approached have done thus far,” Kassera added. “If the citizens of Parker County could only understand what the Veterans Memorial at Soldier Spring Park means to us who have served, they would understand the intensity of our drive to complete our goal. “Our Veteran's Memorial is a Parker County memorial but will include service personnel from any state in this Union as their bricks are placed in our walk of honor which is paved with bricks engraved with the names of military personnel who have served. Sadly, there are those who have given their all and it is to these people that a special meaning is tucked away in their hearts and I know what our memorial means to them.”The site has been made official and the team is in place and in just a matter of days, the Brazos Bash, a National Cutting Horse Association sponsored event, will kick off its annual festivities at the Silverado on the Brazos Arena. On Sept. 28, a silent auction and raffle to raise funds for the memorial will take place and Jordan is imploring people to come out to help make the park a reality.“It’s hard for a mother to think her child is gone,” Jordan said. “We don’t want our boys to be forgotten because they have given everything so that we could have everything.”She said the silent auction donation items have been “great” - from an autographed guitar by Kid Rock to signed footballs - one from Emmitt Smith the other by Roger Staubach just to name a few. Donations will go to help purchase flag poles, PCGSM archway, fountain/waterfall, landscaping, benches, ADA walkways, monuments and statues.Jordan said donating a tax-exempt gift is “critical” in helping the PCGSF's honor hometown heroes in the building of a memorial park, and to allow Horsemen for Christ to continue to share the Gospel.The Brazos Bash, a National Cutting Horse Association event, runs from Sept. 26 through Oct. 6 with the silent auction, live auction and raffle on Sept. 28.Jordan said those wishing to make a donation to the PCGSF, a 501(c)3 organization, can do so by calling 817-988-2202.
Lance Winter, 817-594-9902, Ext. 102 Twitter: @Lancewinter