Two final memorials are under construction at Alabama’s Centennial Memorial Park on Quintard Avenue to honor fallen soldiers. The memorials will honor soldiers who died serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“When completed, we will have memorials for every American war,” said local veteran advocate Ken Rollins, “and I hope I never live to see another war.”
Rollins is twice a veteran of the Vietnam War, isthe past deputy chairman of the Alabama Board of Veterans Affairs, and is a longtime advocate for veterans on local and state levels. He and the late Eli Henderson, who died from COVID-19-related illness on Aug. 7, 2020, were instrumental in the park’s founding.
In 1999, the Alabama State Legislature designated the park as a memorial for the state. The names of every Alabamian who was killed during the 20th and 21st centuries, including both World Wars, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and the Persian Gulf War, are included. Those who are fallen from the Iraqi and Afghanistan Wars will be added, in similar fashion, as individual names engraved in Zimbabwe Black granite. The park also includes the name of every Alabama law enforcement officer and firefighter killed in the line of duty, a reflecting pool and a small memorial monument to Anniston Police Officer Justin Sollohub, who was killed in August 2011.
Because of the incomplete construction, which began about three months ago, there will be no Sept. 11 memorial service this year in Anniston, according to Rollins. Each year, ceremonies are held on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, and usually on Sept. 11. However, the event was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 virus, and the same reason applies this year, as the existence of the virus has affected construction work and delayed the project.
Rollins said he regrets that this year’s ceremony will not take place, but believes work will resume soon; there is no definite timeline.
It will be finished though, giving posterity a reminder of those who served before.
“If people come by here a hundred years from now,” he said, “the memorials will be a reminder that those who came before them died in the line of duty. The people who died deserve our respect.”