Bill Brooks inspects white crosses, which required some eight months to research and build, that represent 122 fallen military service personnel from Dougherty County. They will be displayed, along with American flags, on the Albany Mall lawn this Memorial Day weekend. Brooks said he hopes those who see the crosses will take the time to say a little “thank you” for those who lost their lives while fighting to preserve Americans’ freedom.
ALBANY, Ga. -- As on recent Memorial Days, this year's passersby will find a field of American flags clustered on the lawn of the Albany Mall. Marvin Mixon with Albany's American Legion Post 30 says the organization puts them there for every national holiday. This time, though, visitors will find a little something more.
Near the flags will be 122 handmade wooden crosses -- one for each combat death of a Dougherty County military service member. That's all the way from World War I through every major conflict, including the Iraq and Afghan wars. According to the man who made the crosses, Bill Brooks of Albany, the project required some eight months to complete.
Brooks, who has lived in Duluth, said he remembers a time when, on patriotic holidays like Memorial Day and Veterans Day, white crosses would line almost every single road.
"It was absolutely a beautiful sight," Brooks said, "but they were pretty small. When I thought about it, I wondered if maybe I could build something classier -- something really to remember."
Brooks said that last year he began to visit the archives and research those from Albany and Dougherty County who had given their lives for freedom. It didn't take him long to realize he'd have to limit his inclusion to those who'd died from combat injuries.
A medical condition kept Brooks from serving in the military, he said, but his dad served as a Marine in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Listening to his father's stories of fighting against the Japanese helped make Brooks the patriot he is.
"I was visiting the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C.," Brooks said. "There was an inscription there that really meant a lot to me. It said, 'Freedom isn't Free.' I hope the crosses will mean something to everyone who sees them at the mall, especially the young people."
On each cross is painted the first initials and last name of the fallen, along with his rank and the conflict in which he served.
"It's gotten to where people just look at Memorial Day as a time to take off work or to find some new clothes on sale," Brooks said. "It would please the dickens out of me if people would just stop and think for a second on their way inside the mall. Maybe they could write a little thank-you note."
The flags and crosses will be installed on the front lawn of the mall early Saturday morning, Mixon said, and the public is invited to show up and assist with their installation. A short memorial service near the flags is planned for 4 p.m. on Sunday, Mixon said.