Veterans park seeks new heights

FLORIDA – The town’s new National Veterans Park continues to evolve with the addition of a Vietnam War-era military jet.

The plane, a T2 Buckeye jet that was used by the Navy, was donated by the Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland, said Town Councilman Dan Wilson, the Veterans Park committee chairman.

The plane is already on-site, awaiting permanent installation at the park, which is next to Town Hall on Fort Hunter Road.

The T2 Buckeye is a training jet used from 1968 to roughly 2006. The plane was primarily used to train pilots on how to land on an aircraft carrier. Wilson said the plane sported larger wheels on the landing gear to help trainee pilots land easier.

Wilson said the park aims to honor veterans and teach children about the sacrifices made by veterans over the years. He said he is concerned young people don’t seem to know the country’s history, but a visit to the park, when completed, will educate them from the French-Indian War to the current one.

“At the end of this park, you’re going to be right up there with Afghanistan,” Wilson said.

He said the jet could be the first of many additions to the park, which was dedicated in November.

The first phase of park construction began last year when a memorial honoring all of the town’s veterans was erected. The second phase, which will be under way for several years, will include a large concrete walkway that stretches around the grounds, as well as plaques and memorials.

Each war would have a plaque detailing history of the conflict, along with interactive barcodes that could be scanned by smartphones, allowing users to access media for the site.

He said when the park is complete, it will be larger than many veterans parks, including ones with large memorials.

“Most towns, when you drive through will have a little memorial there,” he added. “It’s not the right way to teach a student.”

The park also eventually may include a helicopter and tank.

“Civil war cannons are pretty tough to come by now,” Wilson joked

The committee has spent $100,000 on the park. Donations are still being accepted and plaques can be purchased to honor specific veterans, he said.

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