The Secretary of the Army has accepted a Midlands organization’s gift of a $3 million Centennial Park to be built at Fort Jackson.
The park, gifted by the Gateway to the Army Association, will be located on the site of the former Post Headquarters, a two-story, white painted, wood-framed building constructed in 1941 across Jackson Boulevard from the U.S. Army Basic Training Museum. The headquarters building was razed as part of an Army initiative to move soldiers out of WWII-era buildings because they can’t be heated and cooled efficiently, fail to meet existing building codes, and are too expensive to maintain.
Organizers expect to break ground in June on the first phase of the park, which will feature a 20-foot tall granite statue of a male and female drill sergeant, Marty Wells, a retired command sergeant major at Fort Jackson and chairman of the Gateway to the Army Association, said at a news conference Thursday.
The project is being undertaken with the “express purpose of doing something in honor of the 100 years of the storied history” of Fort Jackson, which marks its centennial anniversary in June.
“Millions that have come through those gates to be members of the world’s greatest fighting force,” Wells said.
Wells was joined by local business leaders and Abe Turner, a retired major general and the 41st commanding general at Fort Jackson.
“You’ve got to consider that Fort Jackson has probably touched the vast majority of those who have served in our Army — the enlisted and NCOs (non-commissioned officers),” said Turner, a Palmetto State native and graduate of S.C. State University. “This is part of reaching out to them to say that we haven’t forgotten their service to our country.”
The project will include an amphitheater constructed in the shape of the Fort Jackson “Victory Starts Here” insignia and overlooking the drill sergeant statue. The amphitheater will seat approximately 150 people.
Organizers said the amphitheater will be ideal for small military ceremonies or a place for visitors who visit the post on graduation and family days. They add that the site could be used as a venue for reenlistment, promotion and retirement ceremonies, as well as marriages and concerts performed by the 282nd Army Band based at Fort Jackson.
The association is raising money for the project through financial and in-kind donations as well as sales of commemorative pavers. For more information about the pavers and providing financial support, click here.