To Always Remember

Garner Dedicates Long-Awaited Veterans’ Memorial  

Jeffrey Webb loved football and fireworks, and got a kick out of being a “well-paid ditch digger” when he worked for a local irrigation business as a teen.

A 2004 graduate of Wake Christian Academy, the youngest son of Julie and Jim Webb Jr. of Garner was a student at Appalachian State University when he announced his decision to join the U.S. Marine Corps.

Decades on display at the memorialFurthering his many reasons to enlist were the 2006 actions of an Iranian-American student convicted of driving a car into a crowd of students at UNC-Chapel Hill, reportedly to “avenge the deaths of Muslims worldwide.”

For Jeffrey, it was an act of terrorism, and it was personal: The girl he loved was in that crowd, and barely escaped injury.

Jeffrey embraced his Marine Corps service, as a fire team leader and designated marksman for his platoon, and was part of 1st FAST Company, the Fleet Anti-terrorism Support Team, stationed at Norfolk, Va.

But in September 2007, Lance Cpl. Jeffrey Webb was killed in an accident following live fire training at Fort A.P. Hill, Va.

“They were packing up to go home; it was their last night,” Webb said. “Jeffrey was a team leader, usually inside the Humvee, but he had switched with someone and was in the gun turret instead. The driver of the Humvee lost control, and Jeffrey was killed in the accident.

“He was 21 years old, engaged to be married, and had his life ahead of him,” she said.

A Community Remembers

The Webbs’ loss is among those commemorated by the new Veterans’ Memorial in Garner, set at Lake Benson Park, where Jeffrey enjoyed Fourth of July fireworks the last time he was home.

Featuring his name and 66 others from conflicts dating back to the Revolutionary War, the memorial also stands as a testament to this community which values its fallen.

The names include men and women who lived in Garner, St. Mary’s, Panther Branch and the eastern part of Swift Creek townships, and the southern part of Raleigh.

Close up of an inscription“There’s hardly a person in Garner who hasn’t helped directly or indirectly with the Veterans’ Memorial,” said Faye Gardner, vice chair of the Garner Veterans Memorial Committee. “This is very much a community-built project.

‘“Everybody is not a veteran, but we can all be patriots,’” she said, quoting fellow committee member Ron Smith. “And I’ve seen the patriots of Garner step up to the challenge.”

The committee formed in 2006 to begin planning the $500,000 project. The Town of Garner donated the memorial site, and along with the Wake County Board of Commissioners, pledged thousands of dollars to the cause.

Local businesses, churches, civic and veterans groups, and individuals donated generously, and many funded memorial benches and inscribed bricks to create a Walkway of Honor.

And three separate bench purchases met Gardner’s personal goal to see Vietnam, disabled and homeless veterans all represented.

Recent dedication ceremonies for the Veterans’ Memorial included a somber wreath laying hosted by the Rand’s Mill Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Chapter regent Kay Whaley researched and confirmed all of the names engraved, which were read aloud as the soldiers’ families stood by.

And on May 4, a celebration drew crowds for patriotic music, speeches and the release of 67 balloons, each containing one soldier’s name.

Jeffrey Webb’s family took part in the dedication.

“I don’t believe God makes mistakes, and Jeffrey was a Christian, so we know we’ll see him again,” said his mother,who now volunteers at the Veterans’ Hospital in Durham and with the USO at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

“But I don’t want Jeffrey’s name forgotten. I don’t want his sacrifice forgotten. I hope people will remember the families behind these names. They all have mothers and dads. Jeffrey has a brother, David, a fiancée, grandmothers, uncles, aunts, cousins — and life is different now for all of us.”

The Memorial Design

The interactive design of the Veterans’ Memorial was developed by Clearscapes Architecture + Art of Raleigh. Lead architect on the project was Mong Pen Yueh, a Garner resident.

Yueh says while most veterans’ memorials are designed for a specific conflict, Garner wanted a site to honor all veterans since the birth of America in 1776, and through future conflicts.

“Each segment represents one decade in the history of the United States,” she said. “Inside the memorial, larger panels on one side list the wars the nation was involved in during that decade.”

Details on those conflicts have been researched and written by Dr. Craig Friend, N.C. State University professor and director of Public History.

“Smaller panels on the other side list local veterans who lost their lives in those wars. As you walk through the memorial, you are walking through history,” Yueh said.  

The Veterans' MemorialDecades of peacetime are reflected by open spaces between the textured panels, which were created using Piedmont clay via an earthcasting process performed by Clearscapes’ principal and renowned artist Thomas Sayre.

Sayre also worked on the earthcast Gyre, placedat the N.C. Museum of Art.

“In earthcasting, we make molds directly in Mother Earth, then pour concrete into them,” Sayre explained.

Following a minimum monthlong curing, the sculpture is lifted from the ground. Much structural and engineering work — along with rebar and backhoes — is required.

“The point is that the intentions and ingenuity of humans meets the grain of nature; it’s a balance of human intention and what nature is,” he said.

Sayre oversaw the casting of some 40,000 pounds of soil, performed at Lucas Concrete in Charlotte. The panels’ textural depth is meant to be recognized as Piedmont soil, even from a distance.

“Garner was a very rural community, and North Carolina supplied the most soldiers of any state to the Civil War,” he said. “Out of the plowed fields came the soldiers, so the panels are literally coming up out of the ground. Others who didn’t return became dust. So we have the depiction, literally, of where we come from and go back to.” 

Uniquely shaped benches at the site offer a place to “get away from the main space and think about what you’re experiencing,” he said. They, too, seem to rise out of the ground. 

“This is a very emotional project and replete with meaning,” Sayre said. “What we’ve designed is interactive; it takes time to take in 200-plus years of periodic conflict. And an interactive piece can be much more enduring in the minds of visitors.     

“There’s also an inherent evangelism in this: Will the slabs march on? Do we want more vertical slabs, or more blank spaces? People from Garner have some control over that, because in America we have a say,” he said.

For Gardner and others, the finished Veterans’ Memorial represents a labor of love that will teach and inspire those from near and far, for generations to come.  

“It’s really special to see the response from people,” she said. “Veterans are generally very private; most would never buy themselves a brick, and many don’t talk about their service. But families are saying time and time again that the memorial is opening minds and hearts, and conversations.”

Brick sales continue for the Walkway of Honor; for more information, see

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