At Jastro Park in downtown Bakersfield, a heartwarming scene unfolded as 174 new names of veterans were etched into the black granite panels of the Kern County World War II Veterans Memorial. The event symbolizes the continuation of a commitment made by the community: to remember, honor, and educate the future about the sacrifices of those who served.
Vietnam veteran and president of the board of directors for the Kern County World War II Veterans Memorial committee, Ed Gaede, expressed that this unveiling isn’t just a routine update. It’s the recognition of an evolving tribute. “It has to be a living memorial,” he remarked, emphasizing the intention behind the addition of new names. Any World War II veteran with a connection to Kern County is eligible to be added, meaning that as years go by, more names will find their place on this hallowed monument.
The dedication and painstaking attention to detail in adding these names cannot go unnoticed. David Williams, the owner of Williams Monument Co., along with his daughter Emily, spent seven hours on a recent Monday accomplishing this task. Using a sandblasting process, David meticulously engraved each name. He’s no stranger to this labor of love, having engraved nearly 2,000 names on the memorial’s panels, always with the same precision and dedication. “No mistakes,” Williams stated, highlighting the gravity of his work.
Recalling the memorial’s earlier dedication on December 10, more than a thousand community members congregated, filling the area around Truxtun Avenue. The upcoming event is expected to be a more intimate affair, with an estimated turnout of 100 to 200 people. Though it’s a “scaled-down version” compared to the mega-event of December, as described by Kathleen Grainger-Schaffer, one of the memorial’s many devoted volunteers, its significance remains undiminished.
Ed Gaede encapsulated the spirit of the memorial, stating, “There are so many stories.” As he gestures to the names carved into the granite, he’s reminding us of the numerous tales of bravery, sacrifice, and dedication. The inclusion of new names ensures that the memorial remains a vibrant place of “reverence, remembrance, and education.”
As we look forward to the unveiling of the new names, we’re reminded of the timeless importance of recognizing and remembering our veterans. They’ve given so much, and in etching their names in stone, the Kern County community ensures their stories live on.
Mayer, S. (2023, May 17). WWII memorial committee to unveil new names on the black granite. The Californian. https://www.bakersfield.com/news/wwii-memorial-committee-to-unveil-new-names-on-the-black-granite/article_0a807312-f50b-11ed-a665-cb9e5db8f450.html