In honor and remembrance: Two additional walls to be added to Memorial Park in Grass Valley |

In honor and remembrance: Two additional walls to be added to Memorial Park in Grass Valley

Marine Corps League member John Bynes by the Veterans Memorial Wall at Memorial Park in Grass Valley. Bynes is the chairman of the Memorial Wall Committee who is spearheading a project to add two additional walls to the existing monument.
Laura Mahaffy/ | The Union

Local activities on Memorial Day

What: Memorial Day Ceremony

Where: Pioneer Park, Nevada City

When: 9 a.m. May 30, 2016.

For more information, please visit: Veterans" target="_blank">
">Veterans of Foreign Wars

What: Memorial Day Ceremony

Where: Grass Valley Veterans’ Hall

When: 11 a.m. May 30, 2016.

For more information, please visit: American Legion 130

What: Bicycle Tour of Memorial Bridges led by Connie Strawser of Tour of Nevada City Bicycle Shop

When: after 9 a.m. Ceremony

Where: Meet at Pioneer Park

What: Local Heroes’ Grass Valley Memorial Bridge Walking Tours

When: 1 p.m.

Where: meet under the Memorial Bridge Tour Banner in front of the Veterans’ Hall

For more information, please visit: Friends" target="_blank">">Friends of Nevada County Military

Charles McLaughlin had an elephant-like memory, the kind that would be able to tell you within five minutes what happened in certain chapters of history. Perhaps that was why the veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps thought it was so important to pay enduring tribute to a group of uniformed men and women instrumental in this country’s history.

“We know everyone named on the wall has a small special place in the scheme of things, to preserving and protecting our … history, we should honor each of them” said Betty McLaughlin, Charlie McLaughlin’s widow. “A memorial is not just an honor, but simple remembrance,” she added.

Almost 14 years ago, McLaughlin, along with the help of fellow members of Detachment #885 of the Marine Corps League, erected a monument in Grass Valley’s Memorial Park in honor of those men and women in Nevada County, deceased or living, who served in the U.S. Armed Forces or with American allies.

More than a decade later, while many of the original Marine Corps League members, including McLaughlin himself, have died or moved away from Nevada County, the project they started still stands in its original spot in Memorial Park, reminding generations of Americans who visit the park the dedication of more than 1,000 people whose names were engraved on the memorial.

The marble-stone structure, otherwise known as “the wall,” in the community are three slanted gray-granite walls, each displaying tiles that feature the names of local veterans.

The marble-stone structure, otherwise known as “the wall,” in the community are three slanted gray-granite walls, each displaying tiles that feature the names of local veterans. Leaders of Marine Corps said that in the near future, two additional walls would flank the middle wall, a provision that will enable 1,200 veterans to add their names.

“There is a lot of interest from veterans who want to have their names added to the park; there has been ongoing interest about building the two new walls,” said John Bynes, the chairman of the Memorial Wall Committee and a former fighter jet mechanic who fought in Vietnam.

He said the Marine Corps League will make tiles available for purchase and people who want to have the names of veterans inscribed should contact the Gold Country Detachment #885 at a later time.

“You could just see it extending to another generation, and I think that is a wonderful idea, and I hope it is really embraced by the community,” said Terry McLaughlin, Charlie McLaughlin’s daughter-in-law, who noted Charlie’s oldest and youngest grandsons have both followed their grandfather’s footsteps into the Navy,

The project started in the winter of 2000 when Charlie McLaughlin came before the Marine Corps League to propose a memorial wall and a walkway to honor local veterans.

“We all thought it was going to be a worthwhile project for the community,” said Gen. Orlo K. Steele, one of the original committee members who laid the groundwork for the Veteran’s Wall Project.

The project was met with enthusiastic support from the city and county officials, as well as members of the community. Help also came from organizations such as the Cousin Jacks Lions Club, the Boy Scouts and American Legion Frank Gallino Post 130.

According to Bynes, the first wall was built in 2001. But community interest led to add more plaques, and a second wall was added in 2002 — and a third in 2003.

The fact that McLaughlin wanted not only to remember those who served in the American army, but also those in the Allies, probably contributed to the popularity of the walls.

“That was dad’s idea, he wanted everyone to be included, male, female, he wanted every branch to be included,” said Terry McLaughlin, who write column for The Union.

The Veterans Wall in Grass Valley is not the only monument in the area. Just a few miles away in Nevada City’s Pioneer Park, Nevada City Engineer Bill Falconi remembered the day when the first plaque, dedicated to those who have fallen in World War II, was unveiled.

“I was five year old; my dad was the fire chief. It was (known as) Memorial Grove,” he said.

Over the years four additional monuments, honoring the Vietnam War, the Korean War, the War on Terror and a POW/MIA monument, joined the World War II memorial at Pioneer Park.

Steele said he hopes the new walls in Grass Valley will be dedicated on either Veterans Day or Memorial Day within the next year. And he said he knows exactly what his old fellow committee members would think about that.

“They will be very pleased,” he said, “No question about it.”

To contact Staff Writer Teresa Yinmeng Liu, please email, or call 530-477-4236.

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