Jimmie C. Edwards III was 20 years old when he was severely wounded and lost both of his legs while serving with the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War.
Nearly five decades later, after serving as Montgomery County judge and completing four terms as a state legislator, Edwards has a new endeavor on his agenda as the chairman of the Veterans Memorial Commission: decommissioning and relocating the Montgomery County War Memorial Park.
The original park was dedicated in 1976 by President Gerald Ford and was built on a small piece of property that is adjacent to the Montgomery County Tax Office in downtown Conroe. The park features plaques on the ground with the names of 166 fallen soldiers organized by wars.
Although the location has remained the same, the park itself has been redesigned and rebuilt twice over the past four decades.
“The location [of the park] is terrible, visibility is impossible and accessibility is awful,” Edwards said. “There are only a handful of parking spots near the park and it’s so small that most people have no idea where it is—even if I’m asking them while standing in the park.”
Spearheaded by Edwards, approximately 5,777 members from 12 different veteran organizations across Texas unanimously passed a resolution last summer supporting the creation of a new Montgomery County Veterans Memorial Park, with heightened visibility, accessibility and awareness to properly honor those who have served in the military.
Montgomery County Commissioners Court unanimously passed a resolution in support of this cause Jan. 24, and Conroe City Council likewise passed a similar ordinance Feb. 9.
“This is going to be an educational memorial; stories will be told,” Edwards said. “This is remembrance and this is history, and it’s slipping away from us.”
Although the VMC is still collaborating with artists and forming a commission of citizens to aid with reviewing applications for veterans to be included in the park, Edwards said construction on the project should begin in early 2018.
The location of the park will likely be near the southeast corner of the intersection of I-45 and Hwy. 105, adjacent to the Montgomery County Library and the Heritage Flag Park.
Although the total cost for the project has yet to be identified, the Commissioners Court authorized $55,000 of county funds to be used for the park during the March 28 meeting, including $15,000 that Commissioner James Noack raised through private donations. The city of Conroe also donated the land upon which the VMC is planning to construct the park; however, the VMC is also considering extending the project across Alligator Creek if funds allow.
“Only 2 percent of this country’s population are in military service—only 2 percent of Americans are guarding our country,” Edwards said. “The goal here is to commemorate veterans and to commemorate the fallen and to do so in a way that we should’ve done 20 years ago.”
The Montgomery County War Memorial Park will be decommissioned Nov. 12 with a formal ceremony, accompanying music and the unveiling of the new park plans to the public, Edwards said.