For anyone passing through the intersection of state highways 19 and 243, it is hard to miss the F-4 Phantom fighter jet poised in perpetual flight on the southeast corner.
With a little bit more time, you can pick out a U.S. Coast Guard vessel and Vietnam-era UH-1 “Huey” helicopter. But for those who make the time to stop and explore the grounds of the Van Zandt County Veterans Memorial, the spot really shows itself as a unique collection of items meant to celebrate every branch of the U.S. armed forces.
In a retail space adjacent to the memorial, a small museum and gift shop is open five days a week and all of it is lovingly maintained by a group of dedicated volunteers.
“We had 5,000 visitors last year, at least the ones we know of,” said Ron Carroll, who serves as the president of the memorial’s board of directors. “And we don’t owe anything, which is not something I could have said four years ago, so we have come a long way with fundraising.”
The jet aircraft is actually on loan from the U.S. Air Force, but the other items have been purchased and installed using donations and fundraiser proceeds.
“This is a result of the vision of Red Montgomery, who died last year,” Carroll said. “He started it and worked with the state and city to let us put it here. It has really been a community effort with participation from everyone to make it what it is.”
Carroll noted the importance of passing on a sense of history to the next generation, and how the memorial can be a place of education as well as remembrance.
For more information about the memorial, visit vzcm.org.
Other organizations receiving recent grants include:
Crandall ISD Education Foundation – $3,000
God’s Helping Hand Food Program, Mabank – $5,000
Eustace Intermediate Backpack Program – $3,000
Friends of the Van Zandt County Library – $2,000
The Men and Ladies of Honor, Wills Point – $500
Family Peace Project, Athens – $3,500
Men Unleashed, Athens – $3,000
The King’s Rein, Larue – $2,000
Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas – $500
Forever Families, Kemp – $3,000