WWII memorial needs unique item to come together

FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) - Florence's Veterans Park has monuments depicting all the armed services, 9/11, and Operation: Desert Storm just to name a few. But there's no monument to the men and women who served as the greatest generation, and a group of citizens want that to change.

"I graduated high school," said World War II veteran David Phillips. "Five days later, I reported to Bainbridge, Maryland for the Navy."

Phillips served as a radio operator aboard a landing ship in the Mediterranean during the war. At a lunch table surrounded by friends and stir-fry, he recalls some of his most poignant memories. Some are funny. Some are solemn.

"We met some army artillery guys, and they laughed and said 'You sailors don't know how to fight! Come to the front with us!' We got in a truck and went with them. It was fun, until the Germans started answering back!"

Phillips is one of the men and women spearheading an effort to build a World War II monument in the city's Veterans Park. The only problem the group's having, is getting the funding for the monument.

"I've been surprised by the people I've contacted," said Bill Jellison, one of the men leading the movement. "I tell them about Veteran's Park, they say 'Where is that?' The people don't know where Veteran's Park is!"

The group spearheading the project included NASCAR legend Cale Yarborough and former Florence Mayor Frank Willis, who theorizes fundraising for the project is made even more difficult by the fact people are so wary of groups asking for donations these days.

"We'll need a considerable number of dollars," Jellison said.

But the group is confident the project will be completed.

Fundraising isn't the only goal of the group. There's one very specific thing they need to complete the project: letters.

"Like those written on Red Cross Stationary," Jellison said. "We've asked people to check their attics, their cupboards, their old chests and find those letters in there."

The letters they receive will be examined by historians at Francis Marion University, and four will be bronzed and placed on four corners of the monument.

For more information on the memorial, visit www.florenceww2.org.

Copyright 2013 WMBF News. All rights reserved.