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Honoring the Fallen


When CaroMont Regional Medical Center opened on Highland Street in Gastonia in 1946, it was named in honor of local soldiers who died in World War II.

A new memorial currently under construction at the hospital, now located on Court Drive, will pay tribute “to those heroes of the past while also making room for soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in more recent military actions, such as Iraq and Afghanistan,” said CaroMont Health board chairman Spurgeon Mackie.

Plans call for the new memorial, which will be in an outdoor courtyard behind the volunteer desk in CaroMont Health’s main lobby, to be completed in time for Veteran’s Day, which is Nov. 11.

It will feature the names of U.S. military personnel who died in service to our country and were born in Gaston County. In the unfortunate event that other Gaston soldiers lose their lives in active duty, those names will be added.

Three 6 to 8 feet tall acrylic red banners will be adorned with the emblems of the armed forces and will be lit at night. It will also include a protected area for viewing in inclement weather.

It will be a place where visitors can reflect on the sacrifices made by our service men and women, as well as a respite for families, patients and hospital staff, said Richard Blackburn, assistant vice president of support services at CaroMont Health.

“We have never forgotten how Gaston Memorial Hospital got its name, and we felt a memorial to our community’s fallen heroes deserved a more prominent place in the hospital environment,” said Blackburn, whose father and uncle were both World War II veterans.

The hospital’s current war memorial doesn’t include the most recent military fatalities, Blackburn said. Its location, in the lobby next to the elevators, doesn’t demand attention the way the newer one will, he added.

“This new memorial will really draw attention,” he said. “I think it will really make people stop, take it in and learn more and understand more about why Gaston Memorial Hospital became Gaston Memorial Hospital.”

Plans for the memorial, designed by RPA Design PC in Charlotte and expected to cost about $270,000, began more than a year ago, with local veterans providing input on the design. Those who have visited the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., know how it can bring tears to your eyes, Blackburn said.

The hospital’s hope is that its new memorial will evoke similar emotion and reverence, he said.

“Everyday here at CaroMont we have the opportunity to touch people’s lives in a positive way,” he said. “We recognize the soldiers who gave their lives were touching the lives of this country and this county in a positive way. This is a way to remember them and honor their sacrifice.”

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