Whether at the local, state or national level, the need for communal space to honor our war dead is vitally important to who we are as Americans. How we honor and tells those stories speaks to our understanding of duty and the material impact conflict has on our family, friends and neighbors. The City of Boerne is privileged to continue that legacy by ensuring Veterans Park remains a dedicated memorial space for our local military community. Veterans Park is not the largest or the most well-known of war monuments and parks in the state, but for the residents of our county, it is a vital commons area and contemplation site, equal in measure to other revered war monuments.
The original plat of this peaceful, tree-lined square on Boerne's Main Street was given to the City of Boerne shortly after the end of the Civil War by New Orleans jeweler William Kernaghan. It is one of four original park sites established in the early days of the community. Kernaghan also sold the property for the construction of the Catholic Church, which is situated on a hill overlooking the small park. The presence of the church adds to the significance of Veterans Park as a site of reflection.
Originally referred to as Union Square (a nod the end of the Civil War, as Kendall County itself was solidly in line with the Union during that time), the park’s utility has always been woven into the fabric of our community's military life. Following World War I, residents erected a stone monument in the center of the park to memorialize the young Kendall County men who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. On March 6, 1923, an estimated 5,000 gathered in the park for the monument unveiling, which also brought soldiers from San Antonio to commemorate the event. This event was photographed for posterity by famed photographer Eugene Goldbeck.
Beginning in the mid-20th century, local schools would close each Armistice (now Veterans) Day. A military parade would begin in downtown Boerne, eventually ending with a closing ceremony at Veterans Park. A WWI cannon used to sit just west of the memorial, but during WWII, the city gave the cannon as scrap to help in that war effort.
Design enhancements through the years have included an upgrade and restoration of the monument, a paved brick program to honor military families, the planting of additional trees and park benches for quiet reflection, always using the stone monument as a backdrop.
During the 1990s, the local VFW and American Legion posts spearheaded an effort to fundraise for the renovation of the monument, to include a bronze casting for the top depicting the four branches of service. The city was awarded a grant through the Texas Forest Service to build additional vegetation and add 18 new trees as well as install a sprinkler system.
In 2014, new walkways, flagpoles and a set of four markers -- one for each branch of military service -- were added, along with pedestrian lighting, new planters and a widened sidewalk along Main Street.
The Parks department also led efforts to provide additional refurbishment of the park and included a Wall of Honor Memorial Brick program for families interested in honoring and memorializing soldiers.
As wars have continued, Kendall County, as with communities across the state and nation, continue to send residents to serve with distinction, honor and sacrifice. The names of those honored on the monument have grown through WWII, Korea, Desert Storm and Afghanistan.
Today, Veterans Plaza remains an integral site to honor our local soldiers and their sacrifices. On March 6, 2023, Kendall County residents came together to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Graham Monument and to recreate the original Eugene Goldbeck panoramic. Veterans Plaza was also named a Lone Star Legacy Park for state, through the Texas Parks & Recreation Society.