The Howard County Veterans Foundation unveiled the design of the Howard County Veterans and Military Families Monument planned for the lakefront in downtown Columbia. The monument design was introduced at a public presentation June 7 at the Vivian C. “Millie” Bailey Park, where the monument will stand.

“We’re building a monument that recognizes, preserves and pays tribute to the service and sacrifice of veterans and military families in Howard County and deepens the public’s appreciation of the courage, conviction and sacrifice made by them in support of our community and nation,” said Robert Gillette, president of the Howard County Veterans Foundation. “We hope everyone who visits the monument will leave with a renewed sense of gratitude at the profound commitment of military service.” 

The monument will cover 25,000 square feet and feature a sculpture made of three symbolic stars. The base star will represent the greater community who support the military and their families when someone is deployed. The blue star commemorates military service members and families. A hollow gold star embedded in the blue star recognizes the hole left with the loss of service members who have died in the line of duty. 

A reflecting pond and bench will circle the sculpture and complete the monument, which will be engraved with words and quotes about the virtues of service, freedom and democracy. 

The Howard County Veterans Foundation is raising $2.75 million to build and maintain the monument. Maryland grants totaling $1.5 million, Howard County grants totaling $295,000 and private donations totaling $51,000 comprise the initial funding. 

“Howard County is home to more than 20,000 veterans who have served our country with conviction and courage. As a nation, we owe a debt of gratitude to the countless servicemembers who have dedicated their lives to protect and defend our country,” said Howard County Executive Calvin Ball. 

“As the proud son and grandson of veterans, I know the importance of paying our respect and gratitude to these heroes firsthand. We are honored to partner with the Veterans Foundation and the state of Maryland to support the design and construction of a Veterans and Military Families Monument in downtown Columbia. This meaningful and powerful monument will serve as a place of recognition, remembrance and reflection for the many veterans and military families who have sacrificed in service to our country.” 

According to the Howard County Office of Veterans and Military Families, Howard County’s population includes more than 14,000 residents commuting to jobs at Fort George G. Meade and more than 1,000 students in the county’s public schools who have a parent on active duty. 

Artist Larry Kirkland designed the monument. He has created large-scale environmental installations at hospitals, medical schools, universities and transit centers throughout the world, including the Southwestern Pennsylvania World War II Memorial, Sarasota National Cemetery and the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial in Washington, D.C. He has been working on the Howard County Veterans and Military Families Monument since 2017. 

“We’ve spent over five years carefully considering and designing every detail of the veterans monument to properly pay tribute to our veterans and families,” Gillette said. “We want it to be a place for the community to gather on Memorial Day, Independence Day, Veterans Day and throughout the year to celebrate the freedoms and privileges our veterans swore an oath to protect.”