The city of Jacksonville plans to change its criteria for who can be honored as part of its new memorial for veterans.
The city has gotten heat from some veterans in the past for only allowing names on the current Veterans Memorial Wall of service members who died in the line of duty.
“I look at it and I’m just proud of the sacrifice these people have made,” said Marine Corps veteran Fred Blaz.
But Blaz has been questioning the city’s criteria for the wall for years.
“I feel like it falls short because the title is the Veterans Memorial Wall, and right now, the criteria excludes veterans from being added,” Blaz said.
People who committed suicide because of their post-traumatic stress disorder or died as a result of exposure to Agent Orange, for example, are not included on the wall.
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The city plans to expand its criteria for a new memorial that will be built at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena, funded by VyStar’s recent naming agreement.
“Our office is committed to making this a location to honor heroes who not only died in the line of duty, but to those who passed after their service was complete. The criteria for this new memorial will allow all of Jacksonville to give well deserved recognition to the many men and women from Jacksonville that truly deserve it,” said Jacksonville’s Director of Military Affairs and Veterans Services Bill Spann, in an emailed statement to Action News Jax.
Blaz said he doesn’t like the idea of separate memorials.
“Putting somebody on a separate memorial is telling those families, ‘You’re not important enough to go on our actual Veterans Memorial Wall. We’re going to put you at another location,’” Blaz said. “I think what they need to do is just fix the criteria for the wall here – bring it back to where people died combat-related deaths – and add veterans to the back of the wall ... It’s symbolic of the fact that they came behind their brothers and sisters that fell on the battlefield.”
Veterans Council of Duval County Chair Steve Spickelmier and Vets 4 Vets President Bruce Thompson both told Action News Jax it's too early in the process for them to share opinions on the new memorial.
There are still a lot of unknowns, such as whether the memorial will be another wall, and whether it'll be inside or outside the arena.
The arena is already home to the Fallen Officers Memorial Wall.
City spokesperson Nikki Kimbleton said planning for the new memorial will ramp up later this summer.
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