Smithville Texas Veterans Memorial Park
311 NW 2nd Street / Smithville, Texas
Photo by Fran Hunter
For up-to-date information about Park Progress and Events, visit the Veterans Memorial Park Facebook Page
The Veterans Memorial Park in Smithville, TX combines a children’s water recreation area, a memorial space, and a monument to honor the brave men and women who have served the USA since the Texas War for Independence in 1836. The concept for the park developed during a conversation about the fallen heroes from Smithville and the Bastrop County area. By 2010, the Smithville area had lost more soldiers per capita during the War on Terror than any other community in the US. The concept for a children’s splash pad area as part of the memorial came directly from families of the fallen who expressed the desire to have youthful energy and joy as part of this tribute to their children.
Veterans Memorial Park honors everyone who has worn a uniform with pride and dignity: anyone who is currently serving our great country, anyone who has served in the past during war or peace, and anyone who survived conflict or perished in it. In short, anyone from anywhere who was honorably discharged from service in any of the military branches at any time can find a place in this Memorial. Anyone wishing to honor a family member, friend, mentor, or colleague who has served is welcome to add that person’s name to the plaques, the pavers, and the catalogue of heroes.
Smithville's Veterans Memorial Park Beginnings
During the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan (2001 to 2012), Bastrop County mourned seven military service personnel who had gone to the conflict overseas and paid the ultimate sacrifice:
- Pfc. Tina Marie Priest (March 1, 2006 Taji, Iraq)
- Spc. Joshua Ray Farris (July 9, 2009 Afghanistan)
- Captain Joshua Meadows (11/5/2009 Afghanistan)
- Lance Cpl. Cody R. Stanley, (10/28/2009 Afghanistan)
- Sgt. Mario Rodriguez, Jr. (6/11/2010 Afghanistan)
- Navy Seal Member Matthew Mills from Seal Team 6 (8/6/2011, Afghanistan)
- Staff Sergeant Joe Altmann (12/25/2011, Afghanistan)
They were the initial inspiration for this Park, and Bill McGlaun’s beautiful 15-foot tall statue of an angel holds the dog tags of the seven fallen (“Homeward”); a cherub is writing their names in the Book of Life. The angel represents the sacrifice they and others have made in defending this country and her principles of democracy and freedom. Beyond her are the walls of service, on which are plaques with a continually growing list of names as more veterans are identified. These walls will be an ongoing project, and more names will be added over time. Past the walls, the splash pad represents the reason people join the armed forces—the children who play in its waters represent the freedom they serve to protect and the future of this great nation.
Artist Bill McGlaun with the head of the Angel during the casting process / Children play at the Splash Pad on a hot summer day
Veterans Memorial Park was dedicated on Memorial Day, May 27, 2013 in front of an estimated 1,100 people. It is now open to the public from about 8AM to about dusk. A button activates the splash pad; children can push it as they play. The splash pad is open during regular Park hours.
The Next Phase: Archival Database
This vision includes providing an internet archive of as many individuals as possible so that people may learn more about the history of the veterans memorialized in the Park. Having accurate records to add veterans’ names and to describe their personal stories will be an integral part of this process. The resulting database will become a great boon to people doing research on these heroes. Volunteers are needed to help research the biographies of the veterans listed at the Veterans Memorial Park, and information from family and friends is welcome.
The Smithville Public Library will house the database, striving to ensure that every name in the Memorial Park is complete with rank and branch of service and other information such as written and oral histories from the veterans themselves or their family and other electronic data, such as scanned copies of photos or newspaper clippings. This database will be available to the public and will serve as a link to each individual for genealogical or other research.
A Heartfelt THANK YOU to our Sponsors and Volunteers
At its dedication in 2013, the Veterans Memorial Park was valued at an estimated $720,000, including the value of the land, in-kind materials and labor, and the cost of the plaques, the splash pad, and other features of the Park. It would not have been possible to build this park without the commitment and generosity of many individuals and businesses, and we are eternally grateful for each and every one of them.
Thanks to the many volunteers and people who have donated materials and funds to bring this project together. We could not have created this without you!
Continuing the Legacy
Although the main fundraising efforts are over and the Park is now open, the continuing need to install plaques as more names are submitted, the development of the database, and ongoing maintenance will require additional funding. The Partners of the Smithville Veterans Memorial Park will continue to host fundraisers and will gather the names of people who need to be added to the plaques in the park.
We thank you for your support!
Information about the StoryCorp @ Your Library and theVeterans Park
StoryCorp’s mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives. Since 2003, StoryCorps has collected and archived more than 40,000 interviews from nearly 80,000 participants. Each conversation is recorded on a free CD to share, and is preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.
In February of 2012, Smithville’s Mayor Mark Bunte contacted the StoryCorp office to find out if they would be interested in recording veterans’ stories in relation to the Smithville Texas Veterans Memorial Park and was pleased to learn that they were starting to work on a special project for post 9/11 military experience called "Military Voices Initiative." At that time, 18 stories were collected in Smithville, Bastrop, and Elgin.
Since then, the Smithville Public Library was awarded the "StoryCorps @ Your Library" program, a pilot program whereby 10 libraries were selected to get the recording equipment and training to provide a StoryCorps experience for people within the community. Other recipients include Chicago, San Franciso, and Nashville.
As a part of this effort, the Smithville Public Library hosted a "Listening Event" on Veterans Day, November 11, 2013. The stories that veterans had already recorded were playing in the park near each of the walls that represented the conflicts during which they had served.
The Library still strongly encourages the veterans in our area to schedule a time to tell their stories. In addition, anyone who has a story to tell is very welcome to make an appointment. The recording equipment is mobile, and therefore can be taken out of the library if need be. Call 512-237-3282 x 6 to make an appointment.
SDF Libraries 4 Health and Texas Commission on the Arts, 2023
In 2022/23, the Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA) awarded a grant for the completion of two works of art to be installed at the park: the "Eagle Plaques" that were added as initially designed to the tall pedestal on which the Angel is placed, and for the fitting at the base of the "Battlefield Cross" sculpture at the fountian, which the Partners of the Veterans Memorial Park had raised funds to forge. The TCA also funded a Veteran Storyteller project, and a grant from the St. David's Foundation (SDF) through its "Libraries 4 Health" program provided a stipend for a Mental Health Advocate to attend the Storytelling Event.
Thank you, CMS Tony Sandoval, for all you have done in such a short time on this project, and for your dedication and service throughout your too-short lifetime. We all will miss your sense of humor and reason, your generous spirit, and your ability to get ‘er done.
CMS Anthony Sandoval, US Army, (Ret). Born: 01/16/1957, Died: 9/15/2011
Thank you, William (Bill) Harvey McGlaun, for your talents, your generosity, and you friendship. The angel and the cherub will forever be a testament to your love for this community. Thank you for sharing your artistic vision of the world and for choosing to be part of Smithville's history. Your legacy will live on through your artwork in this park, at Independence Park (the bust of Dr. Thomas J. Gazley) and at MLK Park (the relief of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.). Born: 09.09/1948, Died: 01/17/2015
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