The Freedom Monument Veterans Memorial concept was born out of a chance visit to the Chamber office in 2000 by the mother of a Santa Maria soldier who was killed in Vietnam. Doris Walker, now deceased, expressed her fear that her son had been forgotten. Bob Hatch, who was the President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce agreed, and enlisted the help of Dave Cross, Chairman of the Military Affairs Committee, and together they began the task of putting together the design of a memorial dedicated to the memory of all Santa Maria Valley Citizens who gave their lives for our country.
The City of Santa Maria embraced the proposal and dedicated a large area in front of the Abel Maldonado Youth Center which was under construction at the time. The location provides a reminder to future generations that those who died were mostly young members of the community, and it is located in an area of significant importance.
The Chamber of Commerce provided the majority of the funding for the design and construction, which included 6 large concrete and tile structures representing each branch of the service, a dedication plaque, a fountain with a mural containing an American Eagle, a flag pole, full landscaping, and seats for veterans, family and members of the community to pay their respects.
The memorial itself was specifically designed for expansion, and over the last 15 years, many prominent features have been added, enhancing its value to the community and its reverence in honoring those who not only died protecting our freedom, but to those who continue to serve today.
There are four reasons that this monument has such a prominent role in the community. First, it is an indisputable obligation to honor these men, by name, who gave their lives. Secondly, it is important for the families and friends of the fallen to know that those who gave so much are appropriately honored at a place where they can come to remember. Thirdly, as a community, it is our responsibility to never forget their sacrifice and recognize their honored place in the heritage of our community.
Lastly, this hallowed place is a visible reminder that service to one’s country, both past and present, carries a heavy burden. It will remain for the ages as a beacon to citizens of a free nation.
There has been genuine public respect and appreciation for the monument and what it represents. In addition, the Recreation and Parks Department keeps a watchful eye on the monument and keeps it beautifully maintained and landscaped.
The Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce will be holding it’s annual Freedom Monument Veterans Memorial Celebration on December 7th. The event is free and open to the public. Learn more HERE.
Content contributed by Bob Hatch and Dave Cross