CASTRO VALLEY -- Years of dreaming, planning and fundraising to erect a monument to the nation's veterans will pay off when the Castro Valley Veterans Memorial is formally dedicated Sunday, Veterans Day.
The Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9601 in Castro Valley was the driving force behind the memorial project, which was spearheaded by Michael L. Emerson, a Marine veteran of the first Gulf War.
"It has been my great honor to donate my design, time and three years of effort to create this memorial, which honors and remembers my fellow veterans," Emerson said.
Sunday's dedication will include flyovers by a Huey helicopter and a U.S. Air National Guard C-130 from Moffett Federal Airfield. Local dignitaries will speak, and representatives of the American Legion, the Disabled American Veterans and the Veterans of Foreign Wars will lay wreaths.
Members of the VFW Post 9601 approached Emerson about helping with the memorial after he worked on two other monuments. The Hayward resident was responsible for the Flight 93 memorial in Union City. He also helped with the federal monument in Shanksville, Penn., that honors those who died while stopping terrorists on that flight.
"I already had the connections" to build a memorial, Emerson said. "I'd say three-fourths of the people who helped with this memorial also were involved in the Flight 93 Memorial project. Most of the work was donated. Only three companies were paid, and they gave us huge discounts."
Emerson designed the veterans memorial, which features a large star inside a circle 35 feet in diameter, with an American flag atop a pole in the center. Around the flagpole is a pedestal surrounded by seven black granite slabs. The slabs include an entry stone and one for each of the branches of service -- Air Force, Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marines and Merchant Marine. Statues representing men and women who served stand on either side of the entrance.
The memorial, which is near the entrance to Castro Valley Memorial Park parking lot on Quail Avenue near Lake Chabot Road, was designed for easy access by wheelchair users.
For the dedication, Emerson plans to fly a flag that previously flew over the nation's Capitol that was supplied by Sen. Dianne Feinstein's office.
Work began in March at the quarter-acre site donated by Hayward Area Recreation and Park District.
Dennis Waespi, HARD board president, said representatives of the park district and veterans looked at several sites in Castro Valley for years before choosing Memorial Park. "We came to the conclusion that this site is great place. It's aesthetically beautiful and easily accessible," he said.
The veterans raised the $200,000 to build the memorial, including donations for names engraved on brick pavers and service stones. The monument is paid for, but the veterans are still collecting donations to cover the cost of maintaining it.
"The veterans have been an excellent group to work with. They were very persistent and raised the money," Waespi said.
He also credited Emerson for his work. "He designed the memorial," he said. "He had the vision, and he saw it through. We now have a beautiful memorial."
Where: Castro Valley Memorial Park, 18988 Lake Chabot Road at Quail Avenue
When: 11 a.m. Sunday