Vietnam War Memorial gets renovated

On a sunny but chilly Saturday morning, a small group of people, including Friends of the Agri-Civic Center officials and Scouts BSA troops, came out to the Stanly County Agri-Civic Center to renovate the Vietnam War Memorial Orchard along the side of Newt Road.

This included planting 17 trees — eight Cherokee Princess, a type of dogwood, and nine October glory, a type of red maple — where the same number of Bradford pear trees used to reside.

Local attorney Will Taylor, for his Eagle Project, created the Vietnam War headstone in the 1990s in honor of the 17 Stanly County residents who died in the war. Bradford pears were planted, honoring each of the deceased veterans.

The problem was the trees, which are an invasive species, threaten the balance of environmental biodiversity by competing with native grasses, wildflowers, shrubs and young trees.

“They’re beautiful, but they’re just a nuisance,” said Master Gardener and FACC secretary Anne Houck.

With Taylor’s blessing, FACC removed the Bradford pears a few weeks ago and decided to plant more environmentally friendly trees in their place. During Saturday’s renovations, people dug up roots and weeds, removed excess rocks and spread around mulch once the trees were put in place.

“We started talking about this probably about two years ago,” FACC President Larry Gibson said about the renovations.

The cost of the project, including digging up the Bradford pears and planting the dogwood and red maple trees, cost close to $5,000. It cost about $1,200 to purchase the trees. Hugh Martin, owner of Uwharrie Heirlooms, helped the FACC find the trees, Houck said.

They selected dogwoods because “they were more native and more honeybee-friendly,” said Amanda Griffey, director of the Agri-Civic Center, while they chose red maples to add more color to the area.

“Hopefully we will have a really beautiful orchard all year round,” Griffey said, noting there will be a brass plaque beside each tree, as a tribute to each of the 17 veterans.

People of all ages came out to help with the project, including East Albemarle Elementary fifth graders Maura Flanagan and Miracle McCauley. They are members of the newly created Troop 4082, the first female Scouts BSA troop in the county.

Maura Flanagan and Miracle McCauley examine a worm they found while digging up roots.

Miracle McCauley and Maura Flanagan take a picture in front of one of the planted trees. Photo courtesy of Kelly McCorkle.

“We talked about Scouts being reverent and I think it’s important that we recognize this is a Vietnam Memorial and so I think it’s great that we’re able to be here and help support getting it refurbished,” said Kelly McCorkle, the Scoutmaster for the all-girls troop.

Flanagan said working on the renovation project was a form of “community service.”

The troop said it also appreciates the significance of continuing to work on a project that was created by a former Scouts BSA member.

“It’s the past and the present, and here we are, the females, carrying it on,” said assistant Scoutmaster Marlene Rodriguez.

Amanda Griffey and Marlene Rodriguez work on the orchard renovation project.

Working to give the orchard new life was especially meaningful for Griffey’s father, Duane Rowland, a former Vietnam veteran.

The renovations “will keep the Vietnam memorial going and let people realize that some paid the ultimate price for freedom,” he said.

Ellen McCarter and Duane Rowland digging up dirt.