Touring Wrightwood Village requires a visit to The Wrightwood Veterans Memorial Brick Courtyard, where the dream of a few visionaries came to fruition for all to embrace. We can thank these pioneers of patriotism by supporting this beautiful harbor of remembrance and saluting our brave service men and women to honor their courage and celebrate their victories. The Wrightwood Veterans’ Memorial Association (WWVMA) is still serving its country, and community.
U.S. Air Force veterans and long-time chums, Carl “Smitty” Smith, and Larry Boyes suggested the idea of a Veteran’s Memorial in the village at one of their Saturday morning rendezvous in Wrightwood, CA. U.S. Navy Captain (retired) and founder of Wrightwood’s first weekly newspaper Tom Pinard shared the vision of a veteran’s monument, and the suggestion grew into a mission for a growing group of interested veterans over breakfast at the Evergreen Café in 2007.
Noticing in their travels across the USA that many small towns and cities had some type of Veterans Memorial, Tom, Smitty, and Larry proposed to their colleagues the idea of a veteran’s memorial in the village. They mustered their talents and contacts and presented the idea to twenty-nine other veterans and concerned citizens from the area at the Blue Ridge Inn on December 17, 2007.
Hank Hallmark, a local patriot, veteran (Army, retired,) and businessman who has led a great effort tracking down local veterans, was soon involved in the fund-raising effort, at first using primitive collection boxes, expanding to full-on fundraisers, with many local merchants showing interest as well. The (WWVMA) had evolved from a breakfast club to an enterprising organization.
The idea for a community Veterans Memorial gathered steam as it soon picked up support from citizens, military veterans and their wives, with businesses like Victorville Mixers, Bricks R Us, and Herb Anderson supplying materials and labor. The pieces of the plan came together when Wrightwood resident and Gulf War Marine Veteran County Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt was able to secure discretionary funds from the County to buy the land for the Memorial. In less than a year, the Village of Wrightwood and the surrounding Tri-Communities had raised the $25,000.00 to erect a Veteran’s Park complete with picnic tables, paths, and an illuminated American and POW Flag flying 24 hours a day.
Dedicated on May 23, 2009, the Black Granite obelisk is etched with the dedication “Lest We Forget” below the Stars and Stripes on the monument. It is also emblazoned by the shields of the six branches of the United States Armed Forces, Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard, Marines, and Merchant Marines. The monument shares home with the Missing in Action (MIA,) and Prisoner of War (POW) Flag, flying in tandem with the “Veterans Remembered” Flag. Standing at the rear-center of the Wrightwood Veterans Memorial Brick Courtyard, the flagpole donated by Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post Commander Larry Morris and VFW Post 9415 has Old Glory waving above the State of California Flag.
The “Armistice Bell,” the brainchild of Captain Tom Pinard, which is now in safe keeping in the Wrightwood Historical Society Museum, was dedicated at the Wrightwood Veterans Memorial at the 10th Annual Veterans Day Ceremony on September 11, 2018. It tolled eleven times in memory of Armistice Day, which was changed to Veterans Day in 1954. Hank Hallmark was also instrumental in the procurement of the POW/MIA Armistice Bell, as well as Tom Pinard, Warren Gour, Ron Jaqua, Kay Lavish, and Harlan Lassiter, who was the driving force behind the “Veterans Remembered” Flag.
The Dedication Pathway is the product of planning and dedication by Eagle Scout Grayson Rushworth, and many of his Boy Scout colleagues. For his Eagle Scout service project, Grayson incorporated Red Holland type “Honor Bricks” to be engraved with a veteran’s name and rank into a paved walkway through the grounds of the Wrightwood Veterans Memorial Brick Courtyard. The Boy Scouts troop 351, and Girl Scouts of America in Wrightwood have had considerable presence in the pageantry at this hallowed piece of property. Many local artists have also performed here for Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day ceremonies.
The United States Navy Band, Cadet Corps, and many “Laying of the Wreath” ceremonies have graced this spot where the rusty anchor chain barrier from a San Diego shipyard adds a “nautical” touch to the landmark. Contributions from fund raising events and donations keep the Memorial in ship-shape along with the help of volunteer “Keepers” who tend the grounds. This is a wonderful place to also remember our retired veterans, who still serve our country today, and continue to be part of our American spirit.
In an early e-mail written to the community, Carl Smith wrote, “Wrightwood, the little village of 3,000 people rallied behind this effort to properly honor all Veterans past, present, and future. I am proud to be part of this wonderful village and the people who chose to live here.” Carl B. Smith
The Wrightwood Veterans Memorial Brick Courtyard is always open at 1274 Evergreen Road, Wrightwood CA. To order Memorial Honor Bricks, call (760) 900-9004. The Wrightwood Veterans’ Memorial Association (WWVMA) continues to hold regular 3:00 pm Sunday meetings at the Blue Ridge Inn on determined dates. For Information call (760) 900-2763, or Google Wrightwood Veterans’ Memorial. Wrightwood Memorial hats and tee-shirts are also available at most Wrightwood events, including Veterans and Memorial Days.