Officials Break Ground for Memorial Honoring Veterans

Text and photos by Mark Thomas, Staff Writer, from the Star-Tribune, Chatham, Virginia, November 16, 2005, p. 3A. Used by permission.

Veterans at the Ground-Breaking Ceremony

An estimated 300 people, including many veterans, attended the groundbreaking for the new Veterans Memorial in Danville on Friday. The memorial aims to honor all of Americanís veterans and provide a history lesson to young people.

One reason for the new Veterans Memorial in Danville, Davis Newman said Friday, is to teach a history lesson to youth that “freedom is not free.” The estimated 300 people attending a Veterans Day groundbreaking ceremony heard a horrific and graphic history lesson.

Dr. Harold Kushner, a retired Army colonel, talked about his experiences during more than 1,900 days as a prisoner of war in the Vietnam War.

Kushner, who grew up in Danville, recalled marching for 30 days, usually at night. His bare feet became blistered and lacerated.

He was sick, and he was shot.

He spent time in a dark cage. He was starved and made to live in inhumane and unsanitary conditions. He endured barbaric treatment. Kushner was told to tape a statement for his family, saying he was against the war.

Dr. Harold Kushner Addresses Gathering

Dr. Harold Kushner talks about his experiences as a prisoner of war during Vietnam. Kushner, who grew up in Danville, was the featured speaker at the Veterans Memorial groundbreaking.

“I told him I would rather die than make a statement against my country,” he told the crowd at the memorial site in Dan Daniel Memorial Park.

An American flag to Kushner's right waved in the fall breeze.

Men died, Kushner said, some in his arms.

After living in captivity in the mountains, he was kept in a jail in Hanoi.

Kushner was released in March 1973.

Speaking on a cloud-free, cool, fall morning, Kushner said he holds no bitterness about his captivity.

“I learned that no obstacle is too great. I learned to put my friends and comrades first. I learned I lived in the best country in the world.”

Kushner served as a military surgeon from 1967-77. He now lives in Florida and practices ophthalmology.

Following Kushner's remarks, veterans and local politicians turned a few shovels of sand, ceremonially breaking ground for the $400,000 memorial.

Newman, chairman of the Veterans Memorial Committee, said the other purpose behind the special site is to recognize all veterans. That will start with the Revolutionary War and come to today.

A centerpiece will be a circular walkway with names of veterans who served or continue to serve in war or peace time engraved in a brick. Some 2,000 bricks at $70 each have already been sold.

Newman said the price for the bricks will increase substantially after Jan. 1.

A black granite wall will list the names of all Danville and Pittsylvania County natives killed in action during war.

Another feature will be a bronze plaque honoring Archer T. Gammon, the only area resident to receive the Medal of Honor.

For more information on purchasing a brick or making a donation to the memorial, call The Community Foundation of the Dan River Region at 434-793-0884.

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