After seeing the memorial Friday, one woman pointed out, "We only have 53,000 residents in Castro Valley and we have a memorial that can rival anything that you might see in Washington D.C." And, she's right about that.
"It was the right thing to do," Jim Uhlik said. He is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and sits on the board of the Castro Valley Veterans Memorial Committee. At a dedication ceremony this Sunday, he and other veterans will unveil the permanent tribute to the military men and women who have served. "The folks of Castro Valley and the kids of Castro Valley, this gives them something to be proud of," he said.
It took three years of blood sweat and tears to turn what was once an empty space into something much more. "But when the bricks went in, the stories started to be told. You could sit here and hear the stories of every individual," Uhlik recalled.
"Building a memorial like this shows appreciation of the veterans of the past, the veterans of today, and the veterans of the future," said memorial designer Michael J. Emerson. It also shows attention to detail. The memorial is elegant and simple. Emerson is a Marine, a veteran of Operation Desert Storm. "I want to be able to have my great grandchildren come here and say, 'Hey, great grandpa built this,'" he told ABC7 News.
Everything is made of granite and concrete. There is no bronze that can be stolen and there are no moving parts to break. The color used in each logo is the exact color for each branch of the armed services. The names on the back belong to veterans of service. The material used is a lithographic paint designed to last for decades. The smallest piece of granite at the memorial weighs 570lbs and the largest weighs 4,000.
"Emotionally and personally, I couldn't be prouder," Uhlik says. Every piece of the memorial was donated including the material, the labor, and the paint. No tax dollars were used. For the service on Sunday, a shuttle service will run from Castro Valley High School to the park from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.