Sunday, February 5, 2023

James City County Hears Plans for Iwo Jima Memorial Park

The Board of Directors for the Iwo Jima Memorial Park has provided an update on the project. (WYDaily file/Courtesy of Bonnie McElhinny)

JAMES CITY COUNTY — Construction of a public park is underway which would memorialize thousands of members of the Armed Forces who lost their lives in the Battle of Iwo Jima while also honoring those who served during World War II.

During the Tuesday, Feb 22 meeting, the James City County (JCC) Board of Supervisors heard a presentation from John Karafa, president of the park’s board of directors, on the Iwo Jima Memorial Park planned for Williamsburg.

“Seventy-seven years ago this week, tens of thousands of people fought in the bloodiest battle in the history of the Marine Corps to defend our freedom as a democracy,” Karafa said. “This park is intended to pay homage to all those of the greatest generation that sacrificed their lives, sacrificed their time, their spirit, their blood to help defend out country.”

The memorial will sit on top of the hill at Neck-O-Land and Jamestown roads in Williamsburg, and will include a bronze statue that is a replica of the Arlington Iwo Jima memorial.

The idea for the memorial was created by JCC resident Cliff Guertin, a combat veteran who served in Korea. His father fought in World War I and his brother served at Iwo Jima.

“We are here because of Cliff,” Karafa said.

Since buying the property located at 1620 Jamestown Rd over 20 years ago, Guertin has worked tirelessly to make this park a reality.

The concrete statue base is 17 feet wide and sits at the top of the hill waiting for the statue, which is currently in the Port of Savannah. Its arrival in Williamsburg is expected to be later this year.

Karafa said that the goal is to build the park this year, but the organization is still trying to raise the funds needed to cover other costs including a gazebo, benches and landscaping. The goal is to raise $460,000, of which 40 percent has been met so far.

“We still have a long, uphill battle to get to where we need to go,” Karafa said.

There are multiple phases of the project. In the first phase, the park will be built in accordance with the approved site plan.

The second phase will see further enhancements being made for educational purposes, such as an interactive kiosk by the gazebo or a small amphitheater where speakers can come in and talk about the meaning of the park.

WYDaily will continue to follow this story as the park is developed.

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