• New veterans plaza dedicated in Edmonds

    By: Joanna Small

    Updated:

    A North Sound city has gone to incredible lengths to build a place for veterans.

    Edmonds didn't have a memorial-- even a statue, but hard-fought private funding and public property changed that.

    More than 500 people were there to see the new Veterans’ Memorial Plaza was dedicated—appropriately—on Memorial Day.

    J.R. Olivarez doesn’t talk much about his injuries—from shrapnel and gunfire—that have scarred him for life.

    “They’re all combat related, yeah,” he told us.

    He doesn’t talk much about his three Purple Hearts, or his countless medals from his six deployments to Iraq.

    “Just doing my job,” Olivarez said of how he earned them.

    What he talks about are the Marines in his unit who never came home.

    “Corporal Dunham jumped on a grenade to save the other guys in his squad,” said Olivarez.

    He also talks about veterans who came long before his war.

    “To see the other guys that I work with that are Vietnam veterans—they’re all from this area—it’s nice to see them getting honored the way they’re supposed to.”

    Olivarez’s name is now alongside them on the cement that paves the way to a sanctuary for him and for them.

    “It’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” said Vietnam veteran Ron Clyborne, tears in his eyes.

    Clyborne spent three and half years working with the city of Edmonds, fundraising more than $500,000, and consulting with other veterans on how to build a plaza—not a memorial—that best honors their service.

    His relentless dedication was recognized at the dedication of the “best thing he’s ever done.”

    Edmonds said the city was one of the only in the North Sound with no memorial, no place for veterans to gather.

    “I was angered and frustrated when I came to the realization,” Clyborne told us.

    Monday that changed.

    Clyborne says it likely changed the lives of many of his comrades in arms.

    “It’s incredibly meaningful,” he explained.

    Olivarez says it connects the generations of soldiers who all share the same pain—the same pride—and the same pledge of allegiance to the United States of America.

    “I feel like the support for veterans in the community has gone by the wayside and to see that they’re doing this and the turnout we are going to have means a lot to a lot of veterans—past, present and the future,” Olivarez concluded.

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