By Sgt. 1st Class Rhonda M. Lawson, 3rd Sustainment Bde., 3rd ID Public AffairsMay 29, 2009
SAVANNAH, Ga. - A week of stormy weather finally gave way to sunshine just in time for the Veterans Council of Chatham County's World War II Memorial groundbreaking ceremony on River Street in downtown Savannah, May 25.
Colonel Shawn Morrissey, commander of the 3rd Sustainment Brigade, was the guest speaker for the event.
"When this monument is unveiled on Veteran's Day in November, it will serve as a hallowed place that speaks in silence long after the sounds of war have dissipated," Col. Morrissey said during his speech. "The silence of those who pay their respects here in the quiet and stillness of downtown Savannah will be deep and profound."
The event, emceed by WTOC new anchor Sonny Dixon, was attended by World War II veterans from across Savannah, representing all five services as well as the Merchant Marines.
Other attendees included Savannah Mayor Otis S. Johnson, the city council, military retirees, and veterans associations throughout the city.
Following Col. Morrissey's speech, he was honored to pin the Bronze Star, Army Good Conduct Medal, Combat Action Badge, WWII victory Medal, and frican Middle European Medal with three bronze stars on Phillip A. Cerbone, an Army retiree formerly with the 104th Infantry Division, also known as the Timberwolves.
Cerbone's military records were burned in a fire in 1973, so he never received his awards.
Thanks to the efforts of his son and daughter-in-law, he was surprised with his honors and much-coveted WWII veteran's hat during the ceremony.
"Today was a great day," Col. Morrissey said after the ceremony. "It was a time-honored event. As the son of a Sailor, to be around (these World War II veterans) was truly humbling."
The veterans, many of whom are well into their nineties, took turns turning the soil where the monument will stand.
"This is a wonderful tribute to the men and women who served during World War II," Mayor Johnson said. "This monument will not only honor our fighting men and women, but the men who built the ships who made it possible for their supplies to get to the front."
The monument designed by Eric Meyerhoff, is entitled "A World Apart." The idea for a WWII monument had been discussed for at least 60 years.
"There have been many city councils who have tried to make this happen," Mayor Johnson continued. "I'm proud that this council will be the one to make it happen."
So far, about $320,000 has been raised, but another $750,000 to $800,000 will be needed to fully fund the monument, according to Pete Liakakis, the chairman of the Chatham County Commissioners' Office.
Liakakis added that about 490 Savannah residents died in WWII, many of them Merchant Marines.
"It's important that we honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice," he said.
Those interested in making a contribution to the fund can purchase a brick for $100. For more information on the monument, visit www.veteranscouncilofchathamcounty.com, or call 912-313-1657. Donations can be mailed to World War II Monument Committee, P.O. Box 16561, Savannah, Ga., 31416.