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Ceremony Marks Completion of Verne I. Richards Veterans Memorial Park

June 15, 2009 — Five massive, eight-foot-tall black marble obelisks now stand on the Frederiksted waterfront in the Verne I. Richards Veterans Memorial Park, representing the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marines and Air Force, and graven with the names of St. Croix soldiers who died serving their country.
A new black marble bust of Verne I. Richards, the park's namesake, stands before them, peering solemnly into town with the still, blue Caribbean behind. Completing the park is one of the final tasks in phase one of the V.I. Government's Frederiksted Revitalization Project, and officials from Housing Parks and Recreation, the Public Finance Authority and Office of Veteran's Affairs held a ceremony Monday morning to re-dedicate the upgraded park.
"It is our hope that those who visit the park will be reminded of our Virgin Islands Veterans and reflect and appreciate the sacrifices they made to insure the freedom that we casually take for granted," said St. Claire Williams, Housing Parks and Recreation commissioner, in announcing the re-dedication.
The site on the waterfront was first designated as a memorial to veterans in 1972, said Sen. Usie Richards, son of Verne Richards. In 1992 the park was named for the elder Richards. At one time there was a solar-powered light, serving as an "eternal flame," symbolizing the honor due all veterans. But planned monuments never occurred, so the younger Richards is happy to see them take their place in the park now, he said.
"This is not about me and my family, or my father," Richards said at the ceremony. "It is about the veterans who have served and fought for our community."
Williams recalled the original appropriation for the park in 1992 was $5,000.
"I think it might be a little more today for what we have," he said in jest, gesturing to the polished obelisks.
The renovation of the park was financed with $300,000 through the Public Finance Authority as part of the Frederiksted Revitalization Project.
"They've finished on budget and on time," said PFA Director Julito Francis. "They've achieved their goals."
Lt. Gov. Gregory Francis spoke of the long tradition of Virgin Islanders serving in the military.
"While we remember the bravery of the men and women we have lost," he said, "I would ask you to remember, too, the men and women still serving today."
The elder Richards was a long-time director of Veterans Affairs, said Morris Moorehead, the current Veterans' Affairs director. The park's namesake was also a veteran and was very involved in Our Town Frederiksted, the American Legion, the St. Croix Festival Organization and many other community organizations.
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