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Construction of Freedom Memorial Begins

<bt>Freedom Memorial committee members gathered at the construction site for the monument last Sunday intent only on erecting a silt fence but were motivated to accomplish far more than originally intended that day after several citizens who were offering construction donations arrived and offered to get started. Committee member Ellen Johnson said, “It just got the best of us. It was a wonderful moment.”

Mike Kearney, with Brogue Charities, the organization that has helped drive the Freedom Memorial through fund-raising efforts and the required Fairfax County permitting, said, “It’s been a long awaited moment to finally, officially, break ground and get this underway.”

Committee members labored for months to raise the private donations from the community that will be used to build the Freedom Memorial. The monument is being dedicated to all the citizens of the area who have given of themselves in defense of freedom. The memorial does not differentiate those it is honoring by what conflict they were involved in or specify that the honored men and women had to be a part of one of the branches of the military.

The impetus for the monument was an anniversary candlelight vigil honoring the six Great Falls victims who lost their lives during the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Those victims are recognized in the memorials design and in the spirit of committee members who have worked to make the memorial a reality, according to committee leader Pete Hilgartner who conceived the idea and brought it to Kearney.

More than $80,000 was raised from donations to construct the Freedom Memorial. The monument is not being built with tax-payer dollars. In the wake of committee members raising the money for Freedom Memorial, Fairfax County is now overseeing the project. That’s because the memorial is being built on county land in an area next to the public library. Now that building efforts are underway, construction at the site will be clearly visible for passersby on Georgetown Pike.

KEARNEY SAID, “With the help of Foley Construction, Fine Landscaping, Great Falls Electric, Anderson Electric, Turner Construction, Seneca Excavating, Belgard Pavers and SAB Landscaping, we are able to do this. These local Great Falls residents have offered to give in-kind donations that are helping to build this.”

Shawn Foley with W.M. Foley Construction said, “It took us a while to get it done. With the industry being what it is today, we’re pretty busy so my dad, brother and I got out there early Sunday morning and just got started. We got a lot of work done.”

According to Johnson, when the people providing the in-kind donations saw what was happening and joined in, the day’s work snowballed. The group was able to erect a super silt fence at the perimeter of the memorial, install the infrastructure for both the electrical and water systems that will be on site, dig the trench that will house the indigenous memorial rock and dig in the sidewalk that will provide accessibility to the monument.

Kearney said the committee is hoping to transport the massive rock that will serve as the centerpiece in the memorial’s design, to the location in the next few days. If construction continues at the pace members have planned, there will be a dedication ceremony at the Freedom Memorial on Oct. 11, Columbus Day.

Dranesville District Supervisor Joan DuBois said, “First of all I’d like to thank the Great Falls Freedom Memorial Committee. Those folks really worked hard and raised the money to make this happen. I’m excited it’s finally happening,” said DuBois. “The whole plaza will enhance the library grounds and just like many, many small towns across America, provide an opportunity for people to come together to remember and to celebrate.”