As you enter the Center Junction Community Building, it’s clear a lot has changed in the last few months.
The building has been brightened, and fresh paint splashed upon the wall. On the far wall, you get a glimpse of a small portion of what will be unveiled May 18.
Armed Forces Day will be a little more special in Center Junction as the new Veterans Memorial Wall is unveiled in the building. Carolyn Barnes and son-in-law, Chad Rubner, have had many long nights preparing for the unveiling of this personal project.
When Center Junction became unincorporated back in 2015, the city’s park and the community building in it transferred over to Jones County. Board of supervisors decided that keeping a hold of the city’s park would be more trouble than it’s worth and moved to sell the property.
For Barnes and her family, it served as the perfect opportunity to purchase the building and the surrounding park. Upon purchasing, Barnes’s first priority was to revamp the Veterans Memorial Wall, which had been a part of the old building but had featured just 30 Center Junction veterans.
Through copious amounts of phone calls, when the wall is reopened, that number will be greater than 150 and growing every day, including all 30 veterans whose photos were removed from the wall after the sale of the building.
“They just keep coming in,” Barnes said. “It’s continual. My poor husband thinks I’ve disowned him. I’m either on Facebook following a lead or on the telephone following a lead.”
To be included on the wall, the veteran in question just has to have lived in Center Junction at one time or another.
Rubner, too, has had many long nights over the past two months, trying to get the building freshened up, including a new steel ceiling. The work required him to work most weekends and almost every day after work to get things ready.
The wall will be unveiled in a special ceremony starting at 1 p.m. with a collection of speakers set to open up the wall. While the exact schedule is not set, representatives from area veteran organizations are expected to speak, local speakers with family members on the wall could speak and Rep. Andy McKean is planning to be in attendance. A flag presentation and a gun salute are also planned. The schedule for the event will be posted on the Center Junction—What’s Happening Facebook page.
The event is free and lunch will be provided.
The work is not done after the crowd disperses from the open house. Barnes said she’s still getting more veterans every day. While she had been focused on veterans going back until World War 1, with the help of some tech savvy friends, Barnes has discovered names of Center Junction veterans going back to the War of 1812.
While the veterans currently have their pictures on the wall, with years of service and branch of service, Barnes is also working on a book that will hold all the stories she’s gotten from the veterans and their families during her research.
There are also larger plans for the building as a whole. The veterans wall accounts for one-quarter of the walls in the room, and there are already plans for two other walls. Rubner is planning on walls commemorating both the history of the city and the history of the school, before it was consolidated into the Midland Community School District.
The building has a kitchen, and Rubner is taking a cue from the Amber Community Club as far as what he thinks the building can be. The building will be available for rentals, a graduation party is schedule for the day after the open house, and they hope to hold a couple community events a year. With the funds raised from events, the hope is to rehabilitate the old baseball field in the park to provide a place in town for local kids to play.
Overall, the pair hopes that more small communities take up similar projects to protect their history and sense of place.
“Every little town should do this,” Barnes said. “It’s been amazing.”