On a sunny spring day in Sparks, hundreds of people gathered at the Sparks Marina to commemorate the groundbreaking of the new Veterans Memorial. Attendees received neon yellow vests, free coffee compliments of Lighthouse Coffee and live music was performed by the Reed High School Marching Band.
“We gave you a vest because we want you to work,” Sparks City Councilman Kristopher Dahir said, adding, “we did this because it’s really you who is building this.”
Afterward, the US National Guard came out and Melissa Dahir sang the National Anthem before a prayer and thanks to Nevada’s fallen heroes was give. The Sparks City Council, fire chief, police chief and delegates from near and far were present, along with more than 100 US veterans.
“I haven’t seen a crowd like this since In ‘N’ Out opened up,” Sparks Mayor Ron Smith joked. However, he then choked up as he said, “This memorial will preserve and honor the men and women who have sacrificed their lives for our great country. We’re a small state and to have that many people from here sacrifice their lives is amazing to me”.
An emotional moment passed throughout the crowd when Kristopher Dahir introduced the Nevada Veterans Memorial board who helped make it possible. US Congressman and Nevada representative Mark Amodei was on hand and talked about his family who served in the military and how important this day is to America.
“You know, if you want to get something done, you have a vision, an objective, and here we are today,” he says. Washoe County Commissioner Vaughn Hartung and City of Reno Hillary Shieve were also present and gave proclamations about what the memorial means for Nevada.
“It’s an honor to be your sister city; God Bless America,” she says. March 29 also marks National Vietnam War Veterans Day that 9.2 million Americans fought in.
“This whole thing started out as a concept and now look at everyone here,” Hartung says. “We’re not done yet but we’re halfway there,” he adds.
A few major sponsors were also named in contributing to the memorial, including GMC who donated $60,000 to the project, a $100,000 donation from private donor Blake Smith, and $276,000 was raised from Great Basin Federal Credit Union for the memorial.
While Kristopher Dahir emphasized that this is a statewide memorial, not just limited to the City of Sparks, many volunteers and people from city staff were there.
After the ceremony and honoring the donors and fallen US servicemen and women, Nevada delegates put on yellow hard hats, grabbed shovels and broke ground.
As people began to disperse, US Navy veteran Dan Delorey stopped to reflect on his time in the service and what this memorial means to him.
“I’m from Gardnerville and I belong to US Submarine Veterans Incorporated that meets here in Sparks. I served in the Navy from 1971-1986,” he says. When asked about the memorial, he adds, “This is a way to remember those who have given their all. All too often we forget them, they are put on the back burner, so it’s nice to see a place here to remember our friends and a place to call home.
“Friends we have listed here, but comrades are we all,” Delorey adds. “It doesn’t matter if you know somebody in the US military or not, we’re all in this together.”
For more information about the Nevada Veterans Memorial, visit https://nvmp.info/.