Maricopa veterans Jim Bussey and Terry Oldfield were coming home from a funeral for a fellow veteran in Marana when the idea of a Veterans Memorial Park came about.
Bussey had talked Oldfield, who plays the bagpipes at various gatherings around town, into playing at the funeral for a family friend at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Cemetery.
“On our way back, we were talking about Maricopa, and we decided that Maricopa needed a memorial,” Bussey said.
Initially, the park was to be dedicated to fallen veterans. When they learned about a similar effort underway in Casa Grande to honor all of Pinal County’s fallen veterans, they changed their focus.
As Bussey explained, he and Oldfield realized that the best way to move forward was to think about all veterans — and their families.
“We’re going to have a memorial that honors the fallen, our veterans in general, our MIA/POWs, and our families, because those are all sacrifices that have been made and continue to be made to this day,” Bussey said.
“The families, especially, go through a lot in hanging with us and traveling all over the world. It’s a lot of sacrifice on their part, as well.”
Bussey said an additional focus at the park would be educational.
“We want a place where people see what we’re doing, as far as honoring veterans,” Bussey said. “Not only our fallen, but our flag, our country and all that we’ve been given.”
Their mission defined, Bussey and Oldfield next worked to engage the City.
Oldfield said support from Parks and Recreation Director Nathan Ullyot and City Manager Rick Horst was overwhelming.
“We met with Nathan and, you know, I can’t say enough about Nathan and the city manager as far as support for this park,” Oldfield said. “They have really taken the lead with helping us accomplish this goal.”
Bussey said the City has located a spot for the park but hasn’t announced it publicly yet. He’s hoping for ground to break on it in the next six months.
Ullyot confirmed the project, but declined to comment on the timing, location or City’s support for it, saying it’s still in the discovery phase.
The astronomical cost was not lost on Bussey. Purchase of an acre or so of land plus the cost of the memorial park could run at least a half-million dollars.
“They told us to take care of the memorial itself and they’d take care of the rest,” Bussey said, adding the project had become much more attainable with the City’s involvement.
“We went from having to worry about raising half a million dollars to maybe somewhere between $75,000 and $100,000,” Bussey said.
This content was first published in the November edition of InMaricopa magazine.