John R. Burton left a bequest of $500,000 to the City of Norfolk for the construction of a memorial to honor all of our citizens who fought to protect our freedom and who never returned home.
The designers felt that honoring the courage and sacrifice of individuals who were willing to lay down their lives for their beliefs was a worthy endeavor. The site for this memorial occupies the most prominent point in Norfolk Harbor. The waterside is bound by a 20-foot-wide concrete pier with applied wood pilings.
To make an environment where one could contemplate the subject of the memorial, the designers cut two bays from an existing concrete pier an bounded the landward side of the point with brick walls. The seaward side of the pier was also enclosed in order to give the memorial a sense of solidity. Bridges were placed across the removed bays and the grade of the point was raised to further the sense of separation from the rest of the point. Earth was then built up against the landward walls and a bosk of trees was planted to close off the point from the surrounding active park. A single flag pole was placed on axis with the long waterside of the pier. In addition to serving as a marker, the pole will provide the lighting for night viewing of the memorial.
In order to give a presence to those memorialized, the designers chose to research letters written by individuals who did not return home. By using letters, the designers felt that they could reveal the broad range of moral standards, political beliefs, thoughts and emotions that comprise the history of this nation. The three-times-life-size letters appear to be blown in from across the ocean. As a reminder of the fleeting nature of our lives and the distant shores upon which our citizens have shed their blood.