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November 15, 2011 > Gift to veterans' memorial

Gift to veterans' memorial

By Simon Wong

As of December 2010, the Castro Valley Veterans' Memorial (CVVM) project had raised approximately $20,000 but has since received a $50,000 boost from Castro Valley residents Minda Amsbaugh and Craig Alton. The Memorial will be built in the Castro Valley Community Park at 18988 Lake Chabot Road to honor veterans and serving members of the nation's six branches of the armed services.

The Veterans' Memorial is 35 ft. in diameter and will be located in a grassy area below Quail Avenue. An American Flag in the center will be encircled by six black granite "Service Stones" and illuminated by lights within a seat-wall without impacting neighbors. Statues, just beyond the periphery of the circle, flank the entrance to the site. Visitors will see them clearly as they enter and approach a black, granite "Entry Stone" set on a plinth.

Veterans, civilians (a service background is not required), companies, groups and organizations may purchase an unlimited number of "commemorative bricks" at $100 per brick. They will be arranged on the outer edge of the Memorial's base. Each has up to three lines with 14 characters/spaces per line (including blank spaces and punctuation). The Memorial will accommodate a maximum of 720 commemorative bricks.

Each Service Stone represents a branch of the military (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Air Force and Merchant Marines). Only veterans may have their names engraved on the back of their Service Stone which has room for 99 engravings. Names of loved ones or friends who are, or were, veterans are also accepted. Each name has a maximum length of 20 characters, (including blank spaces and punctuation) which will be an inch in height and in capital letters. An engraving is available for $200.

Six granite benches have been sold for $1,000 each - four to veterans' organizations and two to non-veterans' groups which donated so the benches could be "named" for a veterans' organization. The Northern California Corvette Association acquired the last bench in December 2010. The project is expected to cost almost $90,000. This consists of donations in-kind and financial donations.

Amsbaugh and Alton are a softly-spoken, quiet couple. Their generosity represents a desire to help complete the CVVM. It is also a small measure of their love for their son, Travis Matthew Amsbaugh, who died tragically in a car accident in Southern California on September 1, 2011, aged 26. Most tellingly, they deeply respect the man who was a worthy member of every community in which he found himself and who understood how to make his way in the world.

Mourners from Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, co-workers from his mother's company and many people, with whom he and his family were not in regular contact but who had touched each others lives at various times, attended his funeral.

Travis graduated from Castro Valley High School in 2003 and joined the Marines, an MOS in Aviations Electronics, in March 2004. Following five years of basic training and active duty postings to Pensacola (Florida), Cherry Point (North Carolina) and the Marine Corps Base at Kadena Air Force Base on Okinawa, he returned to the US as a reservist. He attended Rio Hondo College and graduated from the Police Academy in 2009, was recalled by the Marines in March 2010 and served a year in Afghanistan before joining the Department of Public Safety at the University of Southern California on his birthday, July 21, 2011.

"Travis surprised us by joining the services," said Alton. "Minda was not overly pleased but it turned out to be really good for him. He enjoyed it, met numerous people, visited many places and experienced a lot. He collected friends along the way."

"It was something he felt he needed to do. Just this year, I told him I was glad he'd done so and was proud of his accomplishments. 'So you're not mad at me anymore, mom?' was his response," recollected Amsbaugh with a smile. "He had a large circle of friends and filled the room.

"Despite its name, the CVVM encompasses the whole of the East Bay. It's for all who have served or who are serving. Every parent wants to eventually dance at their child's wedding, to hold their grandchildren," she added, stoically holding back emotion. "This project is a fitting way for us to ensure Travis' longevity and memory and for others to do the same for their loved ones."

The Memorandum of Understanding between the CVVM Committee and the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District (HARD), which approved the project in September 2010, requires full funding to be in place before construction begins. Groundbreaking and dedication are scheduled tentatively for March 2012 and July 4, 2012, respectively. Amsbaugh and Alton's donation helps substantially but more is needed.

"We established the Travis Amsbaugh Memorial Fund when our son passed and, on the day of his funeral, read a newspaper article about the veterans' memorial. Given that Travis had served as a Marine, it was the right thing to consider supporting the CVVM. On meeting with Castro Valley VFW 9601, from which the project's committee members are drawn, we learned of HARD's funding requirement," explained Amsbaugh and Alton.

Additionally, a sporting event has been named in Travis' honor. The first annual Travis Amsbaugh Bocce Ball Tournament was played on October 1, 2011 at Adobe Park, Castro Valley, and raised $2,000 for the CVVM.

Donations to the CVVM can be made via the Travis Amsbaugh Memorial Fund at Bank of the West, 3396 Castro Valley Boulevard, Castro Valley. Call branch manager Sue Hohl at (510) 582-1086. Monies received by Bank of the West are in addition to the personal donation from Travis' parents.

For more information about the CVVM, to request a commemorative brick, Service Stone name engraving or simply to make a donation, visit www.CVVM.info. Alternatively, contact Bob Pirone at (510) 418-6311 and RobertPirone@sbcglobal.net.

For those who do not wish to order or donate online, either download an order form at www.CVVM.info or contact Bob Pirone for a form and mail checks (payable to "VFW Post 9601-CVVM") to CVVM, 22237 Queen Street, Castro Valley, CA 94546.

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