“No Veteran who fights for this country should have to fight for a job, a roof over their head or the care they need when they come home”
"These words are inscribed on the base of a newly installed veteran monument above the images of the 5 branches of the military, and just below the marble statues of a male and female veteran who now stand tall to represent the over 40,000 who are homeless in this county on any given night."
The monument, now located in the Cherokee County Veterans Park at 7345 Cumming Highway just outside Canton, came about through a 9 month campaign by Cherokee County Veterans led by Jim Lindenmayer, director of the Cherokee County Homeless Veteran Program, and Joseph Hickey, owner of the Macedonia Memorial Park located just up from the Veterans Park.
The genesis for the monument came after Hickey and his business partner Bart Williams both had encounters with homeless veterans. In the case of Hickey, who is not a veteran but his father was a WWII veteran, he received a call from a Cherokee County mother to recover the body of her veteran son who had frozen to death in the woods outside St. Louis with a bible in his hand. Bart, whose father was a Medal of Honor recipient for actions while attached to the Army Special Forces in Vietnam, encountered an 82 year old homeless Korean War veteran living on the streets.
Both men contacted Jim, and it was at this meeting with Betty Lewis that Hickey announced that he wanted to do something that could shine the light on the homeless veteran issue. The outcome of this was the idea of creating a monument that would not only highlight the issue that no veteran should ever be homeless, but show respect for those veterans who have found themselves homeless no matter what the issue.
Soon a committee of local Cherokee veterans, led by Jim Lindenmayer, Army veteran, West Point graduate, American Legion Post 45 Service Officer and director of the Cherokee County Homeless Veteran program, was summoned that represented all branches of the service as well as various service periods and both male and female input. The first thing needed was a statue design and after a couple of iterations, Jim Bennett, Korean Army veteran, came up with the two-statue design. The female veteran statue was modeled after a female Marine who for 31 years fought bouts of homelessness as a result of a failed NCIS drug sting that left her with various issues. The VA had originally and continually denied this female veteran any type of benefits due to an obscure 1980 rule that requires a veteran to serve 24 months before a veteran can become eligible for benefits. Since she was being treated still by the VA, Lindenmayer with the help of the local Ga. Department of Veteran Services and Channel 46 launched a campaign to show that she qualified for benefits as she successfully met three of the exceptions to the rule. After a 5 pm Thursday showing of her story on Channel 46, the VA awarded her 100% SC benefits at 9 a.m. the following morning.
At 1100 hours on a sunny and cold January 25, the 9-month monument campaign finally was completed with the unveiling of not only the monument, but 6 marble benches donated by friends of the program that will allow visitors to relax and enjoy the view of the monument. The monument also would not have been possible without many veteran-owned businesses such as Argos, Taylor Construction, Apex Lighting, and Home Depot Foundation donating their time, skills and materials at no cost to the program.
Over 400 veterans, civilians and dignitaries were at the ceremony, to include Congressman Barry Loudermilk who flew in late the night before from Washington. BG David Lesperance, Chief of Armor from Ft. Benning, was the guest speaker. In addition to Harry Johnston, Cherokee County Commissioner, and many of his staff, members and representatives of the State of GA to include Governor Kemp's office, the GA Department of Veterans Affairs, State representatives of the DAR, Marine Corps League and the VFW.
The event brought together organizations from all over Cherokee County to raise awareness to the issue of homelessness in the veteran community. The Sequoyah High School Air Force JROTC presented the colors for the ceremony, River Ridge High School’s chorale performed the national anthem and Woodstock’s Marine Corps League Detachment 1311 provided a 21 gun salute during the unveiling in honor of all the men and women veterans who have found themselves homeless.
With over 30,000 veteran statues and monuments in existence in the nation that get celebrated either on Memorial Day or Veterans Day, a new date will be added to the calendar, December 21, for the annual ceremony for this statue. When asked why this date is so special, Jim Lindenmayer replied that December 21 is the longest night of the year, and the longest night that a homeless veteran will spend living and surviving on the street, in the woods or in a shelter.