The bright parachute gently swirled out of a gray, cloudy sky. As the crowd below watched, local world champion skydiver Tim Weible circled Liberty Plaza in Chehalis, unfurling a prisoner of war flag he carried. Punctuated against the silver sky, the black POW flag was a stark reminder on this Flag Day Sunday that many fighting men and women have never made it home.
Weible brought the flag to the dedication ceremony at the new Liberty Plaza, a 10-acre development northeast of the Interstate 5 Exit 77 interchange at Main Street and state Route 6.
“I never really realized what ‘In God We Trust,’ means,” developer Neil Amondson told the crowd gathered around the new water fountain and flag at the entrance to the development. The fountain prominently features the words “In God We Trust.”
“When we began this project (in fall 2007) we didn’t expect a financial crisis and all of the challenges this community has had to face,” said Amondson. “This is really a neat day, to be able to dedicate a flag to the servicemen and women who have served our community.”
The 29,000-pound natural stone fountain, designed by Land Expressions of Spokane, features a volcanic columnar basalt formation from the Columbia Basin in Eastern Washington. The tallest of the columns stands at 25 feet. A flag pole rises from the formation as water splashes down.
“It’s the tallest columnar basalt fountain that we know of,” Amondson told The Chronicle. “The contractor travels worldwide building these fountains. The next tallest (stands at) 18 feet.”
Opening ceremonies began with a color guard presentation led by Captain Daniel Whalen, and the raising of the flag by the Boy Scouts. Soloist Rick Sundstrom sang “The Flag” as Weible descended from the skies with the POW flag in tow, presenting this flag once he reached the ground to Sundstrom at the podium.
Miss Lewis County Hannah Ash sang “God Bless America,” and led the audience in singing the final verse.
“Freedom isn’t free,” Amondson told the crowd, as he took a moment to recognize the veterans in attendance, including Iwo Jima veteran Cy Meyers, mayor of Winlock.
Our fighting men and women, Amondson continued, “keep our culture and our freedoms and our truths self-evident.”
A reception followed at the new Holiday Inn Express, where Amondson discussed the Liberty Plaza project, which features the 112-room Holiday Inn along with a new Timberland Bank.
The project began in the fall of 2007, with the “big dig,” Amondson said, in February of 2008. “Then we hit major contamination,” he ruefully recalled, when digging revealed the old and leaking remains of a former gas station at the site. Once cleanup of this contamination was finished, the project continued with the construction of the bank and hotel complex.
“What you see here is only half the development,” Amondson noted. “Later this summer we will begin construction of a 94-room La Quinta with a pool and spa. We are (also) negotiating with a restaurant.”
Three more parcels at the Liberty Plaza site are still available and being actively marketed.
Amondson is the facilitator for two developments by the Lacey-based Sovran Group: an 80-acre development near Napavine and a 320-acre industrial park development near Winlock. Both projects are still being marketed, Amondson said, but are not seeing active construction due to the poor economy.
Victoria Stewart is a freelance writer and photographer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.