Work is underway on a $390,000 memorial at the city-owned Pioneer Cemetery that will pay tribute to the more than 500 veterans who are buried there.
Construction work started after city leaders, joined by veterans' organizations, held a groundbreaking ceremony June 27. The event was led by Buddy Loggins, commander of Pleasanton's American Legion Post 237, Mayor Jerry Thorne and members of Pleasanton Post 6298 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
The memorial will be completed in late October in time for a community-wide dedication on Saturday, Nov. 12, which is Veterans Day weekend.
The memorial will feature seven monoliths, six flag poles representing each arm of the military branches, including the Merchant Marines, and a taller pole for the American and prisoners of war/missing in action (POW/MIA) flags. A large granite platform, a bronze sculpture of a kneeling soldier, sitting benches and a granite star will be installed at the base of the flag poles.
In addition to recognizing all veterans buried at Pioneer, the names of 21 who were killed in action or lost during the country's conflicts will be inscribed in a memorial stone to be provided by the Pleasanton posts of the VFW and American Legion, and the Rotary, Lions and other service clubs.
The City Council, which has been reluctant to use general fund revenues to upgrade Pioneer Cemetery, agreed to back the $390,000 project to construct the Veterans Memorial at the top of the cemetery after a chamber filled with veterans, families and members of the Pleasanton Veterans Memorial Committee urged its support.
In fact, it has been through the generosity of that committee and its successful solicitation of contributions that Pleasanton residents, service organizations and the business community have raised nearly $250,000 of the needed $390,000 to complete the memorial. Through private donations, it's been the committee's goal to keep the public funding needed for the memorial to a minimum.
Part of the recommended improvements to the cemetery, when the city acquired it, included a veterans' memorial structure, an information kiosk and a computer terminal that could provide visitors with information about the cemetery and about those who have been laid to rest there.
Local residents Bob and Marilyn Weiss stepped to the plate well before plans for the memorial were finalized and approved by the city of Pleasanton with donations totaling $100,000.
Gary and Nancy Harrington, who have donated public art to Pleasanton, pledged $40,000 in matching funds toward the construction of the memorial.
Veteran and memorial campaign leader Doug Miller said the donors have been named "Early Visionaries" for their role in the project.
"Without the support of both families, this project would not currently be under construction," Miller said.
Additionally, there are other improvements to accommodate an anticipated increase in traffic, as well as new walking paths and "gathering" areas at the memorial.
In supporting the memorial, the council recognized the large group in Pleasanton that participate in veteran programs. These include the Pleasanton Military Families, an organization that supports families of those serving in the military, a group that routinely volunteers to spruce up the old burial grounds and hundreds who attend "Welcome Home" celebrations and community gatherings for returning veterans.
Council members said they view their authorization to proceed with the Veterans Memorial as a continuation of its commitment to veterans and shows the city's strong collaboration with its veterans' organizations.
They also noted that the enthusiastic patriotism in Pleasanton can be seen downtown on street light poles adorned with American flags and yellow streamers, each with the name of a Pleasanton soldier now serving in harm's way in Afghanistan and the Middle East.
The council's commitment to those who have served in the armed forces was evident a few years ago when it appropriated funds to upgrade the Veterans Memorial Building on Main Street. Built in 1933, the city paid to renovate the building to bring it back to its original glory while preserving its historical and architectural integrity.
The project upgraded the Veterans Memorial Building to modern accessibility standards by adding wheelchair ramps to all the entrances and installing a lift for the main hall stage. New electrical, plumbing, kitchen and restroom upgrades also were added, and the building was seismically strengthened and equipped with a new fire protection and security system.
Now the council has turned its commitment to its cemetery, with the Veterans Memorial the first of a number of projects. It is part of an estimated $4.5 million upgrade planned for Pioneer Cemetery in the coming years. A master plan includes a vision statement for the cemetery, along with recommendations for developing and expanding cremation and burial activities.
Donations are being accepted for the Veterans Memorial. Those wishing to contribute can make their checks payable to "City of Pleasanton - VMF" and mail to Vet Memorial Project, Attn: Michele Crose, Manager, P.O. Box 520, Pleasanton, CA 94566.