By CATHY MOUNCE, Register Staff Writer
Members of the Gainesville Rotary Club contributed a $10,000 check to the Medal of Honor (MOH) Host City Park fund during Wednesday’s Rotary Club luncheon.
Club President Marty Jarboe officially presented the gift to MOH committee member Don Pettigrew with 20 to 30 club members in attendance.
Pettigrew —who led the effort to have Gainesville recognized as the official Medal of Honor Host city — accepted the check after a short presentation about the Medal of Honor park now in its planning stages.
Gainesville Mayor Jim Goldsworthy introduced Pettigrew as “the founder of the MOH program” and said the host city designation was an important step toward Gainesville’s recent recognition as the “Most Patriotic Small Town in America.”
Pettigrew said each year, the MOH recipients are honored in four different cities in the United States.
The first stop is at the Reagan Library in California; the second is at Wall Street in New York City; the third stop of the MOH tour is Washington, D.C.; and the last stop is in Gainesville.
“When describing each of these stops to me, a MOH visitor last year told me that at the first stop, you meet lots of Hollywood types,” Pettigrew said. “On the second stop you meet millionaires and CEOs. The third is, of course, filled with politicians. On the fourth stop in Gainesville, Texas, you meet real people.”
Gainesville is currently the only MOH “host city” in America. The goal of the Medal of Honor Host City Program also includes building a park to honor all MOH recipients worldwide. The dedication park is set to feature a black granite monument, a rock waterfall and benches for visitors. Service flags, as well as the American and Texas flags, will be lit by spotlights and be continuously flown.
Officials said construction of the park will begin as soon as budgetary obligations are met. The fund currently has 67 percent of its required budget. Members of the park’s committee have also applied for a grant from a foundation, and if received, the grant will increase fund totals to 91 percent.
Further funding opportunities will include “adopting a hero” in which individuals may purchase bricks engraved with the names of Medal of Honor recipients for the park walkway. Costs for the brick and the engraving is $100.
Educational kiosks will be placed in the park with information about the program and MOH.
Approximately 17 MOH recipients have committed to attend this year’s event set for April 10-13. For the first time together, three of the four recipients recently honored by President Obama will appear at the Gainesville ceremonies.
“Last year I spoke to a young soldier who traveled all the way from Fort Sill, Okla.,” Pettigrew said in closing. “When I asked him what it meant to him to drive all this way for just a short time he told me that he didn’t care how long it took and if it was only for ten minutes, he wanted to be in the company of real Americans.”
The Medal of Honor creed is “it shall be the privilege and responsibility of the city of Gainesville, Texas to welcome our nation’s Medal of Honor recipients at every opportunity. In so doing we pay homage to the principles which the Medal of Honor represents...Duty, Honor, Country.”