Smiles and Tears Mark the Start of USC Veterans Park
A special groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the Upper St. Clair Veterans Park took place on Friday.
The Upper St. Clair Veterans Park construction officially began Friday morning.
Local veterans, government officials and community members gathered for a ceremonious groundbreaking next to the Upper St. Clair municipal building.
There were hugs, smiles and tears during the event, as attendees honored and remembered service members.
"I'm having mixed feelings right now. As much joy as I have, I have sadness," Dave Kutschbach said.
Kutschbach is an Upper St. Clair resident, the superintendent of projects for the Upper St. Clair Public Works department and the father of Staff Sgt. Patrick Kutschbach, who was killed during battle in Afghanistan in 2007.
"I'm feeling extreme pride and owe thanks to the township, the fundraising committee and all the residents for starting this project," Kutschbach said. "I plan to help construct the park and be part of the entire process.
"The park will not only honor my son, but all the service people. I think Patrick would be extremely honored and humbled at the same time."
The park will also serve as a special place for Keera Dwulit, who was a captain in the U.S. Army from 2000 to 2005, and is now an Upper St. Clair resident and Upper St. Clair High School social studies teacher.
"I hope this is where students will put down their iPhones and think about their grandpap's service," Dwulit said. "I can't wait to bring my kids...just as my son knows the characters of Star Wars, I hope he will be able to share the stories of the veterans here."
"This is a great day for veterans, this is a great day for the Upper St. Clair community, but it's an even greater day for students. It's important for them to know the sacrifices taken to give them their freedom," said Harry Kunselman, president of the Upper St. Clair School Board and member of the USC Veterans Park Board of Directors. "Today we break ground on what will be the best classroom in the Upper St. Clair School District."
The idea for a the project started more than a decade ago when an Upper St. Clair High School social studies class thought there should be something in the township to honor veterans. With the guidance of teacher Todd Flynn, the students raised $10,000.
The money was used as seed money to get the project started. A board of directors made of community members formed to search for more donations and decide on a park design.
Three years later, the board is hoping to receive its final donations for the project.
"We still need the community to step up. The work's not quite done," said State Rep. John Maher, R-Upper St. Clair, who attended Friday's groundbreaking ceremony to show his support. "The park will serve as an enduring reminder of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice."
The Veterans Park will be located next to the municipal building and across the street from the log cabin on McLaughlin Run Road. It will feature seven stations dedicated to the seven branches of the armed forces—Army; Navy; Air Force; Marines; Coast Guard; Merchant Marines; and National Guard.
T.J. McGarvery, who was part of the Marine Corps in Vietnam and is current president of the USC Veterans Park Board of Directors, stressed that the park is a monument and not a memorial, because it will honor men and women who serve past, present and future.