RANCHO CUCAMONGA - The community said a very big thank you to the nation's armed forces with the dedication of the Freedom Courtyard at Central Park on Saturday.
Located at the northern face of the park's community and senior center, northwest of Base Line Road and Milliken Avenue, Freedom Courtyard is a monument and reflection area to honor American service members.
It was created and funded through the efforts of a number of volunteers, private donors and the city.
"So many people gave their time, treasure, hard-earned money and volunteer efforts," said Mayor Dennis Michael. "The city of Rancho Cucamonga is grateful to all who aided in making this project a reality."
Freedom Courtyard is expected to serve as a venue for Veterans Day and Memorial Day observances as well as be a place for people to honor and spend time with their loved ones who have served or are serving in the military.
Veterans and active service members now also have a place to reflect.
"It means all veterans will be remembered, past, present and future," said Jerry Doll, a Navy veteran and commander of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post 8680. "Their families will have a place to communicate centrally."
The site features a fountain surrounded by five granite pillars with the emblems of the nation's military branches. There are military flags, a flag retirement urn, and a memory box where people can write personal messages to friends and loved ones. The letters are never read.
"I think we need to have more of these because there are a lot of boys that gave their lives so we could have a good life," said 81-year-old resident Joe Guerrero, a Korean War Army veteran .
Guerrero served as a machine gunner in the 2nd Infantry Division and remembers leading a squad during the battles of Heartbreak Ridge and Bloody Ridge.
Gold Star and Blue Star families as well as service members are honored at the courtyard by two 3-foot walls flanking the site's flags.
A highlight of Freedom Courtyard is a 6-foot bronze sculpture titled "Letters from Home" by Michigan sculptor Timothy Schmalz. It depicts a wife or mother looking out a window longingly for their on-duty loved one. On the other side of the window, a soldier in battle gear rests. The scene is framed through the wings of an eagle.
The monument and the dedication of the courtyard carries special significance for the mayor's parents, Lloyd and Marian Michael, whose wartime correspondence letters were stolen 40 years ago.
The Michaels' letters were returned to them by a Moreno Valley man shortly before they celebrated 70 years of marriage last month.
"It's so wonderful to see such a fabulous turnout," said Marian, who sent Lloyd daily letters while he was deployed to Europe as a P-47 fighter mechanic in the Army Air Corps. "It's very meaningful."
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