What was a vision several years ago became reality Friday with the first step to building a memorial dedicated to more than 800 Nevadans who lost their lives in the nation’s wars since the 1864 statehood.
On a picturesque, early spring morning on the western shore of the Sparks Marina, speakers lauded the $2.2 million Nevada Veterans Memorial Plaza with words and deeds, capped by a groundbreaking ceremony that signals the beginning of construction in a month.
“It’s so exciting we’re celebrating a new memorial for 894 men and women who gave their lives,” said Kristopher Dahir, the vice chairman of the Nevada Veterans Memorial and a Sparks councilman for Ward 5. “Not only do we honor them but for generations to come. I strongly believe as a group we can pass this down from generation to generation the values and freedoms.”
Dahir said the memorial, which has raised about half its construction cost, will include names of fallen Nevadans who served in the nation’s battles since the Civil War as well an education path where individuals and families will learn more about the nation and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
This will mark the latest memorial dedicated to Nevada’s heroes. The Battle Born Memorial, which also presents the names of the state’s fallen military men and women, was dedicated in November in Carson City, and the first step to having a Gold Star Memorial at the Northern Nevada State Veterans Home in Sparks occurred in December with the pouring of a concrete foundation. Dahir said the memorials will complement each other.
“For veterans, we all work together,” he said. “This one is a little different because of the education path. Anybody, any vet can gather right here.”
Dahir said the Sparks project includes three phases beginning with the plaza’s construction followed by the addition of veterans’ names and bricks. The final phase will add the educational kiosks and pathway.
Dahir said visitors will learn something new with their visits to the memorial. The Nevada Veterans Memorial includes 16 counties and Carson City and represents every branch of service. Although it wasn’t planned as such, Dahir said the groundbreaking on National Vietnam War Veterans Day takes on additional symbolism since 151 Nevadans died during one of the nation’s longest wars.
Sparks Mayor Ron Smith said the Nevada Veterans Memorial Plaza will preserve the legacy of every Nevada man and woman who died while serving their country.
“We’re a small state and to have that many people sacrifice their lives is amazing to me,” Smith said, adding it’s important to educate current and future generations. “We reflect and honor our fallen heroes.”
Smith said a big goal of the memorial is to take the stories of the men and women whose names will be inscribed and then tell their stories.
Dahir introduced dignitaries from local and state government along with the representatives from the Reno offices of Sens. Catherine Cortez-Masto and Jacky Rosen. Rep. Mark Amodei, an Army veteran who served in the Judge Advocate Corps during the 1980s, gave more of a personal observation on veterans from a parent’s standpoint. He remembers the day his daughter boarded a plane and left for an assignment halfway around the world to a ship homeported in Bahrain, home of the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. He said the experience gives a person a new perspective of service but also another one of what paying the ultimate sacrifice means, especially for the families of hundreds of Nevadans who died in war.
Amodei also presented Dahir and Smith a U.S. flag that flew over the nation’s Capitol on Nov. 11, 2018.