COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — After retiring from service, many veterans choose to retire in Columbus, nearby Fort Moore. Uptown Columbus’ Veterans on Veterans project aims to celebrate local veterans.  

The project launched last November, lining Veterans Parkway light posts from 13th Street to Victory Drive with banners showcasing local veterans, their branches and their years in service.

“It just felt right to do this for Columbus,” said Hal Kirven, who was inspired by a similar project in Corbin, Kentucky and brought the idea to Uptown Columbus. It came with a starter check from the Elizabeth Fry and Dupont Kirven Foundation of which Kirven is secretary and treasurer.

Kirven is a sixth-generation Columbus native whose family has a U.S. military background going back to the 1700s. His great-great-great-great-great-grandfather was Joshua Fry,  who led the Virginia Regiment during the start of the French and Indian War. Fry was replaced by a young George Washington as leader of the regiment following his death in 1754.

Though there are currently 60 spots available to fill with images of local veterans, Tracey Green of Uptown Columbus explained only 27 are currently taken. This prompted the nonprofit to launch a second push of the project following the Fourth of July.

“With us being a military community, we could easily fill all 60 of those banner slots,” said Green.

Securing a banner slot for a local veteran costs $150 and families are able to take the banner home at the end of the project term. Any veteran that has lived in Muscogee County, Russell County or Lee County, as well as at Fort Moore is eligible to have a banner in their name. Interested community members can fill out an online form on Uptown Columbus’ website.

  • Dianne Lockhart served a 21-year Army career as an x-ray technician before retiring and joining Uptown Columbus 17 years ago. (Olivia Yepez)
  • Just 27 of the 60 banner slots available are currently filled. Uptown Columbus hopes to change that. (Olivia Yepez)

Uptown Columbus employee and retired Sgt. 1st Class Dianne Lockhart said she planned to purchase a banner for herself before her boss stepped in, reserving spots for each of the nonprofit’s veterans. Lockhart served a 21-year Army career as an x-ray technician before retiring and joining Uptown Columbus 17 years ago.

Lockhart said, “I just love to go by and see all the different veterans’ pictures on each pole, but I don’t think the average person really looks up to check to see [them].”

According to Kirven, the second round of the project will include larger banners mounted lower on light posts to make them more visible to the community.

Retired Fort Moore music teacher and counselor Peggy Cavezza heard about the project in late June of this year through a Facebook post by a friend. She said she had not noticed the ongoing project until that point but thought it would be an “nice surprise” for her dad’s birthday.

Cavezza’s father is retired Lt. Gen. Carmen Cavezza who served as commander of the U.S. Army Infantry Center and School at then-Fort Benning from 1990 to 1991.

“[The Army] was my life. Actually, practically my entire life,” said retired Lt. Gen. Cavezza, who found out his daughter’s surprise when she asked him for photos of him in uniform and information about his service.

The retired lieutenant general has lived in Columbus since honorably discharging from the Army in 1994. His awards include the Distinguished Service Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, Silver Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, Legion of Merit with Oak Leaf Cluster and more.

He said, “Benning was kind of like home for us because we kept returning back here various times for various assignments and we have some roots here, made friends here, finally got a home here.”

Retired Lt. Gen. Cavezza and his daughter both expressed hopes the project will continue.

“We continue to get more veterans and we have a lot of veterans in this area, so I think it would be highly appreciated,” he said.

Data from the 2022 U.S. census states Columbus was home to nearly 20,500 veterans during 2017 to 2021. Fort Moore’s population consists of nearly 13,000 permanent active-duty military, almost 20,000 military trainees on a weekly basis and close to 27,000 military family members, according to the installation’s website.