In 2015, Foothills resident Michael Curran, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps, bought a vacant lot at 13190 49th Lane and began the process of transforming the site into a Memorial Park that pays homage to the men and women of every branch of the service, including those who were prisoners of war or are still missing in action.
After four years and about $80,000 of his own money, the Veteran’s Memorial is now complete. The lot, which is located in a neighborhood two miles from the freeway, is enclosed by a brick fence, with an archway entrance and gravel covering the ground, a fountain, a ship’s bell, several growing trees, some plants and a few places to sit.
There is also a black metal sign inscribed with every branch of the service, including the Coast Guard and Merchant Marines. It is also etched with the words, “In memory of all who gave.”
Among the recent additions to the park are a black sign with two Huey helicopters flying against a blue background and one with the inscription “Never Forget.” In all there are six signs in the park, all of which were made by Mike’s Metal in the Foothills.
“I see veterans standing at attention saluting, people saying a prayer, getting down on one knee or hugging their loved ones,” Curran said. “The feelings are so strong you can feel the burden that veterans carry on their shoulders today like I do, and the ‘thank yous’ from the hearts of the visitors that stop by are so heartwarming.”
Although it hadn’t been completed at the time, Curran had the Veteran Memorial site blessed two years ago by retired U.S. Navy Chaplin Rev. John Friel of St. John Neumann Catholic Church of the Foothills conducting the service. As many as 18 people were in attendance.
Curran, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), maintains the park with his own money, saying it is also a part of his own healing process from having served a 12-month tour of duty in Vietnam in 1967.
Since the memorial site is actually on private property, Curran said there are no tours, but people are more than welcome to stop by and pay their respects and take pictures, provided they do it from the street.
Curran added that he raises the flag at the memorial site every morning and takes it back down at 5 p.m. The only time he doesn’t fly a flag is when the winds are above 15 mph or if it is raining.
Shortly after arriving in the country in March of that year, Curran was driving an M-274 platform utility truck with a 106 anti-tank weapon mounted on it from the airfield in Da Nang to a nearby Marine base when he became separated from the eight-vehicle convoy he was in.
At about midnight Curran said he came to a fork in the road outside a small Vietnamese village, where he momentarily stopped, unsure of which direction he needed to go.
Although the vehicle he was driving didn’t have lights, he was able to notice an AK-47 sticking out from some of the shanties built along the road and knew he was in serious trouble.
Curran said at that moment he got an awful feeling that either he was going to be a prisoner of war or die, but neither happened. It was at that moment that his sergeant, who had already made it to the nearby base, came walking back down the road looking for him after realizing that Curran had not made it yet.
He added that all of his neighbors have been supportive of having the veterans memorial in the neighborhood.