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'To remember with gratitude': Veterans memorial dedicated in Rockwood

Tribune-Democrat - 5/26/2024

ROCKWOOD, Pa. – Retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Robert “Hank” Sembower Jr. likened the Rockwood Veterans Memorial and Community Park to the mythical Phoenix during a dedication ceremony on Saturday morning.

For many years, the site was home to the Merchants Hotel, which eventually fell into blighted disrepair before being razed.

But, from the ashes, the memorial has arisen, like the Phoenix. The space now has a pavilion, patio, picnic tables, flags, engraved bricks and landscaping.

“The park is an example of renewal and resurrection of life,” said Sembower, who grew up in Rockwood. “The park will stand the test of time, honoring Rockwood veterans past and present.”

The hourlong ceremony included speeches, prayers, songs and celebrations.

The project took seven years and more than $500,000 to complete with numerous individuals and groups from the borough and Somerset County making contributions of money and time.

“Look at what Rockwood can do when we all work together,” said Kirk Moore, from the Rockwood American Legion.

Rev. Jim Monticue spoke about the veterans being saluted at the memorial.

“We gather together today to honor those individuals who at one point presented their lives as a blank check to this nation for an amount up to and including their lives. … Their duty was to serve,” Monticue said. “Ours is to remember, to remember with gratitude, to remember with respect and honor, to remember in prayer these men and women and their families.”

Jon Wahl, a member of the committee that oversaw the memorial project, described the park as a unifying symbol “at a time when so much effort across the world and certainly within our country is devoted to dividing us.”

“It exhibits all the good,” Wahl said. “It shows us what can happen in a community that unites for the common good, what can happen when we enjoy the benefits of our variety, and then put it to work for the common good.”

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