When it came time to order the granite markers that would memorialize American veterans who fought in military conflicts from the Revolution to the present, Pat Smiley, Liberty Field Veterans Walk creator, found himself at a loss for words.
When he first came up with the idea to create a walking history museum dedicated to veterans in Liberty Field, Smiley said he thought raising the funds to purchase the granite markers would be the hard part of his project.
He had thought it out carefully and explained it to anyone who would listen.
From the beginning of his dream, Smiley, who is PSA president, wanted to install 25 carved granite markers along the eight-tenths of a mile paved walking trail that circles the park.
Each marker would tell the story of one of the armed conflicts in American history and the veterans who fought in it. Smiley says his trail would be a historic exhibit that would attract tourists to the area and serve as an outdoor history classroom for children from throughout the region.
“I think teachers in other cities would bring kids here to see it,” Smiley said.
The Pacific Park Board, Pacific Tourism Commission and board of aldermen all endorsed the idea and Smiley began a series of benefits to raise funds to buy the granite markers.
“I thought raising the funds would be the hard part,” Smiley said. “But now I’m facing the biggest challenge so far.”
When he was preparing to order the stones, Smiley thought about how each military campaign would be described. He wanted his markers to be historically accurate and easy enough to read that schoolchildren as well as adults would find them interesting.
But documenting the huge pockets of history that each of the wars occupied in a manuscript short enough to fit on a 4-foot slab of polished granite was almost overwhelming.
Smiley turned to two retired teachers, Roger Brown and Linda Brown, to help write the wording for each monument.
In addition to history, the trio studied type fonts that would be easy to read yet small enough to allow for a full paragraph.
“After much searching we found we had to tell the story in no more than 180 words,” Smiley said. “That’s not as easy as it sounds.”
Smiley had hoped to install the first markers in time for Veterans Day 2013, but getting it right is the most important thing on his mind.
“I want this to be something that Pacific can be proud of,” he said.