Purple Heart Monument Taking Shape - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

09/27/04

Purple Heart Monument Taking Shape

A new military memorial is taking shape at Veteran's Park in Biloxi.

Monday morning, workers unloaded some 35 tons of granite for a new "Purple Heart Memorial" at the Small Craft Harbor.

George Higginbotham couldn't help but smile as a construction crane lowered pieces of stone that are building his dream. The Biloxi World War Two veteran is the man most responsible for making certain South Mississippi always remembers those wounded in combat.

Workers from Reynolds Monument carefully positioned huge slabs of solid rock. It takes skill to unload 70 thousand pounds of stone. But it's the meaning behind the markers that excites veterans.

"In fact, this is the second most exciting day of my life. Day number one was when I came back from overseas with my wife and three children," said Higginbotham.

Kelly Derouen helped George Higginbotham bring his vision to reality.

"And started out with a little piece of printer paper and a sketch and it just kind of blew up from there," she explained.

Those printer paper plans evolved into haunting images etched on a granite canvas.

"I know those guys have had a real hard time over there. Because just look at the face of the one guy on there with the shock. I just can't imagine being in that situation. And all the guys we have overseas right now, going through the same thing," Derouen said.

George Higginbotham is footing the roughly 80 thousand dollar cost of the monument. Fellow veterans say the new monument is a fitting tribute.

"Like the Vietnam Veteran Memorial in Ocean Springs. This is about the heros here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. This is to honor all those who collected a purple heart for having been wounded in combat," said veteran Henry Cook.

Monument man, Don Reynolds, takes special pride in the project, although spectators raised his level of nervousness.

"Most of the time when we're working on a job, we don't have quite as many people out here," said Reynolds.

Many more people will visit the site to remember and honor those wounded in combat.

"And this will be here for our great, great, great, great grandchildren," said a beaming George Higginbotham.

The finished project will include pictures of purple heart recipients etched onto slabs of black granite. A formal dedication of the monument will be held in the next few months.

By Steve Phillips

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