Vietnam veteran Bruce Buttz envisioned a picnic and barbecue area at the front of his 1-acre property in Stagecoach. Then an idea came to him, and the area became more than a place to eat.
"I started building (the picnic area) and I thought a tree would be nice," the 49-year-old "going on 13" said. "And then it flashed to me to have a live, growing tree for all the names of those who died on Sept. 11."
Buttz had spent four months collecting stones from his property, ultimately constructing a 30-foot-long, 2-foot-high wall, spanning his property front. In the gap between the two 15-foot ends of the stone wall, a Royal Empress tree that grows up to 65 feet high and 30 feet wide will bloom big purple flowers in the spring. Maybe not next spring, but in the future.
"I'm a Vietnam veteran and I don't think the veterans from the Vietnam or Korean wars have been recognized as much as they should," he said. "The reason I built this is that people worried about saying, 'In God we Trust' on money or with the wording of the Pledge of Allegiance are putting the victims and heroes that died that day into obscurity. So I built this memorial for them."
On Saturday, he added a 30-foot flagpole west of the tree, finalizing the memorial.
"On the right holiday, (the flag) will be half-staff, but usually it will be flying," he said.
A circular driveway passes behind the memorial -- open to anyone to visit, plant flowers or stop and pause for reflection.
''They can use the circular driveway going either direction," Buttz said. "It's dirt right now, but you don't have to worry about puncturing your tires."
Buttz, who has worked at Wyman Gordon as a finish operator in precision casting for two years, has owned the property in Stagecoach for three years.
Born and raised in Carson City, he lived in Iowa, California and Illinois. HE returned to the area when he bought the Stagecoach property three years ago.
"I have a whole acre, and I didn't know what to do with that half of it," he said.
Although he has spent much time hauling out the remains of cars left from previous owners, he now has the property up to a level of cleanliness and the memorial is complete.
He said the tree is dedicated to the victims and heroes of Sept. 11, and the memorial in his front yard is for anyone who wants to commemorate those who died.
The Royal Empress will take many years to grow to its full height, but Buttz said it's doing fine.
"I put it in a couple of weeks ago. I'm all thumbs and none of them are green, but I can grow rocks," he said, speaking of those he collected from his property for the wall.
He is making plans for a Sept. 11 dedication at the site, but any and all are welcome to come by anytime.
The memorial will be there "for as long as I live there or as long as I live," he said.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: 9-11 memorial
WHERE: 5015 Abilene, Stagecoach, at the corner of Abilene and Iroquois.
WHEN: Open for anyone to visit and leave flowers and flags.