On November 11, 2008 – Veterans Day – Florence dedicated its new Florence Veterans Park in a patriotic ceremony that included active and retired members from all branches of the military.
The six-acre park sits behind the Florence Civic Center on land donated for this project by the estate of R.P. Byrd, a World War II veteran, and former South Carolina Representative Edward L. Young.
Visitors entering the park are awed by the three-columned obelisk featuring a bronze bald eagle apex by prominent Florence-based sculptor Alex Palkovich. The six faces of the obelisk are dedicated to the six branches of the United States military.
Originally from the Ukraine, Palkovich is a life-long sculptor and a retired engineer for General Electric who resides in Florence. Since his retirement, Palkovich is committed full-time to his art. His work is successful in connecting viewers with his subjects, as seen below in the moving sculpture, Home Safe.
The Home Safe sculpture and surrounding trellises represent United States soldiers from all wars that have taken place in the twentieth century.
A tranquil feature of the park is the water wall and pool. People come to Florence Veterans Park for different reasons – solace, reflection, remembrance – and the soothing water brings a sense of peace to visitors.
Another wall, the Wall of Honor, recognizes veterans of the Pee Dee region. Bricks may be added to the wall for a fee, which goes to support the maintenance of the park.
The memorial to veterans of Desert Storm was unveiled during the original dedication ceremony in 2008. However, when conceived, the Florence Veterans Park was intended to be a living memorial, with room for more monuments to be added through the years.
A year after the park was dedicated, this monument to Purple Heart recipients was added. The Purple Heart is awarded to soldiers wounded or killed while serving their country.
In March of 2009, the South Carolina Chapter 4 of the POW/MIA advocacy group Rolling Thunder dedicated this monument to prisoners of war and those missing in action.
The organization was able to raise money and complete the black granite monument in less than one year.
One of the more recent additions to the park is a memorial to those killed in the attack on the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. The 15-foot-tall sculpture was designed by Alex Palkovich and exhibits in its center a piece of stone salvaged from the attack site. The monument was dedicated on September 11, 2011, the ten-year anniversary of the tragedy.
On Veterans Day of 2014 two new monuments were added to the park: one in honor of the United States Navy and another in honor of the United States Coast Guard. Below is the ship’s bell from the Dreadnought USS South Carolina, commissioned in 1908. The battleship was in service during from July 1, 1908, through December 15, 1921.
A renowned member of the ship’s crew was Lieutenant Colonel Chester W. Nimitz. Lieutenant Colonel Nimitz was a highly decorated executive officer who rose to Commander-in-Chief of the United States Pacific Fleet during World War II as well as Fleet Admiral of the United States Navy, the Navy’s highest grade. Following World War II he was appointed Chief of Naval Operations.
Below is the anchor from the United States Coast Guard Cutter Comanche, in service from 1934 through 1947. The cutter is credited with saving 97 lives following the sinking of the torpedoed United States Army Transport Dorchester on February 3, 1941. The Comanche served as supply ship escort in the North Atlantic and performed anti-submarine missions during World War II.
Florence Veterans Park also includes an amphitheater as well as several more monuments in honor of our veterans. There is no admission fee to enter the park, which is open during daylight hours. Florence Veterans Park is operated and maintained by the Veterans Park Committee and the City of Florence.