JACKSONVILLE, N.C. --
As the largest Marine Corps installation on the East Coast, housing such tenant commands as the 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force and 2nd Marine Logistics Group, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune has seen a myriad of units constantly rotate in and out due to deployments. As such, the community surrounding the base has been in support of the base and does all it can to show as such.
From the Lejeune Memorial Gardens monuments to the multitude of community events held in support of active-duty and retired service members, the city of Jacksonville and the greater Onslow County area have time and again honored the sacrifices made by those in uniform. However, the time has come again where a new commemorative landmark is to be erected for all past, present and future uniformed warriors, forever solidifying their positive impact on the community.
“We’re always looking for ways to show our support and recognition of the young men and women who give their lives in protection of our country,” said Don Herring, chairman of the Onslow Civic Affairs Committee. “This is something we did back in 1997, but due to the construction of the Justice Center, it had to be removed. But now, it’s coming back and even larger than before.”
Due to the expansions in downtown Jacksonville, the Freedom Fountain, the community’s new show of recognition to the service members aboard MCB Camp Lejeune and surrounding installations, was recently removed. Now, following years of planning and fundraising, the Freedom Fountain is coming back to town in a new location and in a bigger way, marked by a groundbreaking ceremony on the plot of land next to First Bank in Jacksonville at the corner of Johnson Boulevard and New Bridge Street, July 28.
“The idea was to recognize the pathway that so many of our Marines and sailors took to get from the bases to be deployed,” said Sandra Wyrick, member of the OCAC. “The route from our bases to the port at Morehead City where most of the ships departed from was obvious for this designation.”
So it was decided that the resurrection of the Freedom Fountain would sit along Freedom Way, the road in which decades of units from the surrounding installations traveled upon to deploy in support of overseas operations. The idea for the fountain surfaced as a response to the first Gulf War, but is meant to honor every single service member from every American-involved conflict who has at one point passed through the Onslow County area.
“Not too far to your left is the Lejeune Memorial Gardens and across Montford Point Road is the Montford Point National Cemetery,” said Marcia Wright, member of the OCAC. “This site where we stand today expands the ground that is consecrated to honor those who serve and it remembers, honors and extols the appreciation of this community for them.”
The first phase of the projected design includes a circular pool of water lined by 50 bubblers representing each state of the union. In the center, the tallest jet of water will be the actual Freedom Fountain, and it will be within a smaller circle of three fountain jets, one each for the federal, state and local governments.
“Due to who we are as a town and as a county, the response to the building of this fountain has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Herring. “We let the public decide by vote which design was to be chosen, and already two-thirds of the money raised for the first phase is collected.”
The second phase will include a wall constructed at the rear of the plaza, housing five statues representing each of the five services. Also surrounding the fountain in the walkways, donation bricks will be laid; those interested in donating toward the construction of the fountain will be able to symbolize their contributions in those bricks, later to be placed around the fountain.
With the ceremony concluded and the streamers raised, marking the height of the fountain’s Freedom Jet, the site upon which everyone stood became more than a plot of land in downtown Jacksonville. It began its transformation into the likeness of the Lejeune Memorial Gardens, Montford Point National Cemetery and the other surrounding markers of recognition that honor our service members. The upcoming Freedom Fountain promises to be a well-recognized, well-received attraction just minutes away from MCB Camp Lejeune, paying homage to those who come through the Onslow County area in support of the country.