HARRISON – A truly special park not to be missed in the City of Harrison is Veterans Freedom Park. Designed and dedicated not only to honor those who have given military service and their ultimate sacrifice in service to their country, it also provides a beautiful, peaceful place where veterans and their families can themselves honor, remember and reflect.
The park’s committee first met in 2011, and their planning of its design took a full year. The initial site work began with a groundbreaking ceremony in 2014. That was followed by the first landscape planting in 2015 of evergreens plants and shrubs that have flourished and made the park more verdant and embracing with each year that passes.
A 2016 ceremony dedicated the park and featured the unveiling of the 47-foot-long black granite Wall of Tears, engraved with the names of 301 veterans [from Clare, Gladwin, Isabella and Midland counties] who died in conflicts from World War II, Korea, Vietnam and Gulf Era.
The park is laid out in a pentagon, with each of the five segments designated to a conflict and designed to support a representative statue. The park has installed and dedicated four statues to date: a kneeling World War II Doughboy plus an additional Soldier’s Cross/Battlefield Cross (2017); Korean War helmeted, rain-caped G.I. on patrol (2018); and Vietnam War K-9 handler and his patrol dog (2019). Also installed in a rose garden just outside the park’s wrought iron fence and adjacent to its entrance is a laser cut likeness of Rosie the Riveter (2021), honoring those whose remarkable work in the Arsenal of Democracy supported their military members during World War II.
Now, 10 years after its initial conception, completion of the dream is at hand. Fundraising has been highly successful for the remaining two statues commemorating Dessert Storm and the Gulf War, and the next installation is expected soon.
When visiting the park, visitors will see one highly obvious element directly underfoot – the many tiles engraved with the names and service information of military veterans of war. More often than not, those tiles are purchased by family members, and while most veterans won’t buy a tile for themselves, seeing the tiles does provide them with a sense that what they did matters. Visitors should read those tiles and understand each one represents a real person who stepped forward to make a crucial difference for their neighbors, their nation and the world.