It is critical that we instill in our children that our soldiers gave up the comforts of a simple life and left their small corners of the world to be a part of something bigger. We cannot forget the sacrifices made to keep our country safe, and to have made it as far as we have.
It is important to create lingering connections in the minds of those too young to remember, that connect our human experiences in an honorable way. Educating and nurturing the minds of the future and making sure that the lessons that have been learned throughout history have an impactful effect on the choices made by future descendants.
Locals have been gathering on the one red brick road in Kerens, for decades as the hub of activity for the small town. Once, either side of the street was lined with multi-story office buildings. The main street was booming with business.
Walking the street today, the remaining brick buildings don’t resonate progress like early structures did, but new projects have made great use of the lands left for future generations.
The Kerens Veterans Memorial tells the story of these small town citizens that made the ultimate sacrifice and endured the horrors of war to uphold freedom.
The Kerens Veterans Memorial is an outstanding addition to the appearance of downtown, the small cotton town has been ravaged by time, and brought back to life by dedicated, exemplary members of the community of Kerens, as well as amazing businesses and individual donors from surrounding areas.
Individual plots of land owned by different families were originally donated and cleaned up after years of stagnancy. Ken, Joyce Ann, Lee, and Kelly Bain were the owners of the first plot of land that was donated.
Danny and Nancy Combs also purchased a section of land, had it cleared and then donated it toward the construction of the memorial. Various other sections of land were donated to include all the land currently housing the memorial.
A group then came together to form the committee dedicated to constructing the Kerens Veterans Memorial. Combs is chairman, with Lynn Goodwin serving as vice chairman, Janie Quinn, treasurer, and Barbara Latta, secretary. With Nancy Combs, Judy Goodwin, Brian Jennings, Tanya Jennings, Rus and Lanelle Crawford, Gregory Allen and Otis Ray Spurlock holding seats on the committee.
Once an organization under the Kerens Ex Student Association, they have recently become an independent organization.
During the excavations old bricks from the original structures were discovered buried under the dirt. They unearthed one 75 foot beam and one 150 foot beam stretching the length of the plot. Remains from the original downtown structures.
There were many community members involved in this process, Kerens locals such as David Foreman and Tim Crawford donated equipment and services.
“One of the most outstanding things that has happened to us during the duration of building the memorial has been the continued support from within the community and support from previous residents of Kerens,” Combs said.
The memorial is a beautiful show of craftwork. It features four large black granite monuments with the names of over 2,000 local veterans from the Kerens school system and surrounding school systems that integrated into Kerens over the years. The design was constructed to support the addition of a fifth monument in the future.
Arching around the inner radius of the memorial individual families have purchased beautifully carved black granite benches, engraved with the family names. The memorial has a total of 15 benches, and with one available for purchase.
In the center there is a tall star shaped pillar with a stone set of boots and a rifle perched on top. Two sides are stamped with an insignia for the 36th and 49th Divisions, the two major units with the Kerens National Guard.
The pillar sits in the center of a light colored stone star, each point of the star representing the five branches of the military.
Directly in front of the star, shielding it from view before entering the memorial is a stone wall with the MIA, POW, KIA victims of wars throughout the past. There is an original poem written by Combs etched alongside the names.
From the entrance reads “Kerens Veterans Memorial” with a red, white and blue flag etched into the black stone below the words.
The perimeter of the memorial features four inch raised and curved stone, the names of servicemen and women are displayed on black stone pavers along the curvature of the stone. Anyone from anywhere can purchase a paver to be placed on the monument, and servicemen and women are encouraged to add their names to the memorial.
The raised design was conceptualized by Combs as a way to avoid the names being walked on, or riden on by bicycles.
It is a truly unique design ensuring the respect and adoration of the monument's legacy.
It is important to honor the veterans lost to wars in our past. The construction of the Kerens Veterans Memorial was made possible by the dedication of Danny Combs and the humble hearted people of Kerens, who continue to come together to celebrate community and their history.