When Atascadero resident Chuck Ward was helping to plan a new historical monument under construction in downtown Atascadero, he smiled at the thought of a young man in a backward baseball cap taking a few minutes to soak up some history on his way home from school.
That vision has now inched closer to reality. A 40-foot flagpole was erected last week at the center of the monument taking shape in the Colony Square parking lot off El Camino Real.
An American flag will fly all the time, while a second flag with stars for the original 13 colonies will be hoisted on special patriotic and historic occasions, according to Ward, chairman of the seven-person volunteer committee responsible for the project.
As a former lieutenant in the Marine Corps, he is concerned that today’s students aren’t getting the same exposure to the learning experiences he had as a youngster growing up outside of Boston, where he took field trips to historic sites rooted in American history.
“It instilled in me a deeper appreciation of the uniqueness of the country and what it means to grow up a citizen of the United States,” Ward said.
When complete this summer, the piece, titled Your American Heritage Monument, will have a concrete base with four bronze plaques celebrating the nation’s beginnings with words and art.
Lights will be installed in the ground to shine up on the piece.
The plaques will showcase the Declaration of Independence with a summary of its origin; a sculpture of Revolutionary War soldiers in the battlefield with a John Adams quote from 1775; the Preamble to the Constitution with seven articles, including the Bill of Rights; and a dedication plaque displaying writings from the nation’s founding fathers, such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
Organizers would like to see Cal Poly students develop a smartphone app so visitors can download audio tracks that explain the historic topics the monument represents, much like museums have for exhibits.
“This is designed to be an educational tool explaining the sacrifice the Founding Fathers made,” said Shell Beach resident Richard Hathcock, commander of the Vandenberg Chapter of the Military Order of the World Wars and a former Army captain and helicopter pilot. The chapter is helping to obtain national registry status for the monument.
The project, funded by private donors, has been in the works for about two years and has picked up speed in the past year.
Organizers estimated they would need $60,000 but have increased that to $70,000; so far, they’ve raised nearly $57,000, according to the project’s page on the website www.moww vandenberg.org.
The funds will establish the monument, and remaining money will go toward maintenance and an annual patriotic essay contest and scholarship for local students, Ward said.
Ward was also instrumental in establishing other local patriotic projects: the Faces of Freedom Memorial at Atascadero Lake Park and the Purple Heart Trail along Highway 101 that honors Americans wounded or killed in combat.