By Amanda Rogers
Tim Milligan wants to make sure that veterans don’t just come back to Mansfield, he wants them to come home.
“It’s different to return and to return home,” said Milligan, a former U.S. Army major. “We want to be a town where they come home.”
The difference, he explained, is a place where veterans feel welcomed and a Veterans Memorial Park could be a good place to start. The park would honor the veterans and give them a place to hold Memorial Day and Veterans Day celebrations, plus other events to honor the military and veterans.
“Imagine if we could capture their stories and put them on QR codes,” Milligan said. “A grandfather could walk with their grandchild and hear these stories. Those stories are going to be lost to time if we don’t create an experience for our veterans to come home to.”
But building the park will take time, money and effort.
Even though he is a veteran, getting Milligan involved in helping to create a Veteran Memorial Park in Mansfield wasn’t an easy sell.
“(Former council member) Darryl Haynes called me one day out of the blue,” Milligan said. “I was busy. He said there’s no veterans’ memorial in Mansfield. I think you can fix that. Shortly afterward, I had breakfast with (former mayor) David Cook. He said ‘I think you’d be good at getting a veterans’ memorial.’”
The group, which formed in 2019, took their first step by getting incorporated as a 501(c)3 in 2021. The Mansfield Veterans Memorial Foundation is composed of Milligan as chairman, Marine Corps veteran Matt Hayes, former Navy SEALS Ed Farmer and Bill Hill, Texas Air National Guard member Allan Hudson, former council members Brent Newsom and Terry Moore, Anne Weydeck with current council member Mike Leyman (also a Marine Corps veteran) as their sponsor on the council.
Next on the agenda – finding the perfect spot. After looking at a dozen places, the group decided on Julian Feild Park, 1531 E. Broad St.
“We narrowed it down to this one,” Milligan said, “because it’s underutilized, has good road traffic, it’s close to downtown, has interesting terrain and parking. If you have veterans’ events here, you can also use City Hall parking (across the Broad Street).”
The 8-acre park has a creek and backs up to the Walnut Creek Linear Trail, which would be connected as part of the Veterans Memorial plan. Other features would include a pavilion, amphitheater, markers identifying each military branch, a pond, restrooms, bridges, flags and stones marking each conflict from World War I to present.
The park would take approximately a year to design and another year to build, and the price tag would be $7 million.
The bond committee did not recommend that the park for the bond proposal that the city council is expected to call for May, but Milligan hasn’t giving up hope that it could still be included.
“We have 952 registered veterans in Mansfield and there’s more out there,” Milligan said. “We did an awareness campaign and got a huge response getting them to show up to a council meeting.”
Another attention getter was the Remember Our Fallen exhibit that was put on display at The LOT on Veterans Day.
“It brought attention to what we’re trying to do,” Milligan said. “We got a lot of attention, got a lot of council members asking questions. I think we have strong support from the city council and mayor.”
Anyone who wants to support the Veterans Memorial Park should contact the city council, Milligan said. If the park gets included in the bond, the group will need help advocating to get it passed. If the park is not approved, the council cannot put it back on the ballot for three years, he said.
If the initiative is not included as part of the bond, the foundation will begin fund-raising to build a scaled-down version, Milligan said.
For more information on the proposed Veterans Memorial Park, click here.
Mansfield, Texas, is a booming city, nestled between Fort Worth and Dallas, but with a personality all its own. The city’s 76,247 citizens enjoy an award-winning school district, vibrant economy, historic downtown, prize-winning park system and community focus spread across 37 square miles. The Mansfield Record is dedicated to reporting city and school news, community happenings, police and fire news, business, food and restaurants, parks and recreation, library, historical archives and special events. The city’s only online newspaper launched in September 2020 and will offer introductory advertising rates for the first three months at three different rates.