Flagler Beach's Veterans Park may get a new veterans monument.
Cathy Heighter, president of the local chapter of American Gold Star Mothers, an organization for mothers of service members who have died in service, proposed the new monument at a Flagler Beach City Commission meeting Nov. 12.
Heighter told the commission at the meeting that the organization would like to install the monument on Memorial Day of 2017. Gold Star Mothers plans to install a similar monument at Heroes Park in Palm Coast on Memorial Day 2016, she said.
"The long-term goal of this project for American Gold Star Mothers is to place this memorial in each county in the state of Florida," Heighter said. "The memorial has been inspired by other gold star mothers whose sons and daughters suffer from PTSD."
The monument, which would be made of black granite and dedicated to veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries, would be about 4 feet tall including its base, and 5 feet long, she said. The emblems of each branch of service would be etched into the granite.
Commissioners expressed support for the idea of the memorial, but wariness about the specifics: They did not yet have detailed information on what the memorial would like like or where in the park it might be installed.
"I think it's it’s a beautiful thing that you want to do. I know this is a raging problem that we have," Commissioner Jane Mealy said at the meeting. She asked Heighter where she wanted to place the memorial in the park, and Heighter said she'd accept the city's recommendation.
Commissioner Steve Settle questioned the wisdom of adding a memorial dedicated to some veterans at a park that's dedicated to all of them.
"I think the cause is great; I have no problems with that," he said. But, he said, "We dedicated this park many years ago to all veterans. ... If someone came in and wanted a women’s veterans memorial, I’d probably say no. ... because it belongs to all veterans, and it's for everyone. You know, if you were suggesting putting the monument somewhere else in Flagler Beach I'd probably accept that without a blink. However, to put it in a park that's dedicated to all veterans, I'm not sure it's appropriate."
"That's actually the first time I've heard that," Heighter replied.
Settle said the issue of PTSD and TBI "has always been controversial."
"Some of the people that think it's controversial are veterans," he said. "So the appropriateness of us consecrating a piece of land that's for all veterans and then singling out others, I'm afraid — I just question it."
"Not to dispute what you’re saying," Heighter said, "but I have yet to hear a veteran say they would not support a memorial dedicated to their brother fellow veterans who suffer with PTSD or TBI."
Commissioner Joy McGrew said she didn't have a problem with the proposed memorial.
Commissioner Marshall Shupe asked Heighter to provide more information on what the monument will look like, suggesting she send photos of the Palm Coast memorial once that one is installed.
Heighter said she expected to have drawings of the memorial in the coming week, and would send them to the city manager.