Shield being made to protect eternal flame at Veterans Park

By Rozella Hardin
STAR STAFF
rhardin@starhq.com
It was supposed to be an eternal flame, but it refuses to burn.
The eternal flame at the Veterans War Memorial Park on Elk Avenue was lit in an impressive Memorial Day ceremony by Deacon Bowers, chairman of the Memorial Park committee. However, within a couple of days the flame had been extinguished by gusty winds. It was re-ignited, only to be blown out by wind gusts. And, a third time it was lit, and the winds blew it out.
The flame was re-ignited for the Korean Armistice on July 27.
However, committee members are hopeful that within a few weeks the flame will be re-ignited for the last time, and it will burn permanently. "The problem is that the fixture for the flame is located atop a column, and apparently in a windy place. It doesn't take much of a wind to blow it out," said Deacon Bowers.
The committee has employed the services of Scott Whaley at Cherokee Metals and Dave Blackwell at Elizabethton Glass to build a shield for the flame, which will protect it from the wind and storms.
"We began early trying to find a solution for the problem," said Bob Robinson, a committee member. "We even looked at the eternal flame at President John F. Kennedy's grave, which has an electronic igniter and a sensor that tells the re-igniter when the flame goes out. Automatically, the flame is re-lit," he explained.
"The solution we arrived at was to have a custom-made shield affixed to the top of the column, which will protect the flame. Once the frame is made, the shield will be made of tempered glass, which will protect the flame from the elements," Robinson explained.
The glass shield will have an opening for the flame, as well as vents for the heat from the gas-fueled flame to escape.
Robinson and Bowers said hopefully the shield will be ready for installation within the next few weeks, and the flame can be re-ignited.
The War Memorial Committee hopes to announce plans soon for the Veterans Walkway of Honor, which will be built on the railroad right-of-way near the Pine Street intersection on Elk Avenue. The walkway will connect Elk Avenue with E. Street and will feature memorial bricks, which can be purchased in honor or in memory of a veteran. Also, flags of the various military branches will be flown along the walkway. Other features are also in the works. "We hope to announce project plans soon," Bowers said.