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Marines volunteer to honor vets

By Cpl. Matthew Rainey | | March 16, 2006

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For two weeks, Marines, war veterans and a handful of construction workers have been continuing work on a park in Yuma, Ariz., that was just an idea eight years ago.

The Yuma Armed Forces Park, a park dedicated to honor and revere the sacrifices of all past, present and future veterans, is now in phase two of construction.

“We’re building an amphitheater and bleachers for meetings, functions and veterans services,” said Art Nottingham, retired Marine sergeant major and Arizona Veterans’ Services counselor.

The volunteers and construction workers are currently working on cleaning up the park and building the foundation for the future amphitheater.

“Right now, we’re putting up a structural wall to support the weight of the bleachers we’re going to put up,” said Mike Jones, project contractor.

While much of the park looks like a construction zone at the moment, people are still enjoying the park and plaques are still being placed on the walls.

“We put plaques up about every week or so,” said Nottingham. “The people love it and that’s why we’re down here.”

Delia Marts was in attendance March 9 when the plaque of her husband, deceased Marine Master Sgt. Ed Marts Jr., was placed on the wall.

“He’d love it here,” Marts said of her husband. “He was all for the military and everything relating to it.

“I think this park is awesome,” said Marts. “It’s very nice that people would take the time to do something like this for the military.”

Throughout phase two, Marine volunteers have gladly worked through a variety of tasks.

“I’ve been digging ditches for pipeline, laying concrete and block, and cleaning the place up,” said Cpl. Mike Culverhouse, Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13 embarkation specialist. “It gives me a chance to get off the station to do something for the community. It’s the least I can do for the war veterans.”

Some Marines have noticed the importance of the park and are trying to stay with the project as much as possible.

“The opportunity came up and I rolled with it,” said Pfc. Mark A. Shafer, Marine Aircraft Group 13 operations clerk. “I like the people I’m working with and I think it’s a good cause, so I keep requesting that I be able to stay working out here.

“I think this is something this station and community need to have,” said Shafer. “We really need more people out here helping, though.”

The Marines who have been spending their days at the park have already left a lasting imprint on the community.

“The Marines are doing great,” said Jones. “Without them, it would be tough to do the job with the money we have. The man-hours the Marines have donated are critical to the success of this project.”

Jones said he is planning for the amphitheater to be finished by Memorial Day.

Following the completion of phase two, the park will undergo several other improvements.

“In future phases of construction, we’ll be constructing two more four-foot walls, some lighting, colored concrete, a rotunda, five service flags with a prisoner of war flag for events and an American flag that will always be flying,” said Jones.

As present day Marines work together with the veterans of past conflicts to complete the park, veterans like Jon Rykken Bretag, a former Navy Fleet Marine Force corpsman whose service included three years in Vietnam, will continue to come to the park.

“When I’m depressed, I come here. This is where I feel comfortable,” said Bretag. “There’s a lot of history on these walls here. A lot of my friends are on these walls. I appreciate what (the Marines) are doing.”

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