Nearly six decades ago, North Miami Beach dedicated a memorial to the hundreds of men and women from the area who lost their lives in World War II.
Over the years, it has been rededicated to also honor those who served in the Korean and Vietnam wars.
But the memorial has faded into obscurity.
Now, the city of North Miami Beach has completed a $63,000 restoration and rededication of the war memorial to honor those who continue to serve the nation.
“You go everywhere and these things are preserved,” said Councilwoman Barbara Kramer, who grew up in North Miami Beach and remembers seeing the gun mount as a kid. “I’m happy to see it finally restored.”
On July 4, 1955, the city mounted and dedicated a World War II anti-aircraft gun in the median of Northeast 19th Avenue at 167th Street.
The 15-foot tall, four-ton gun, which was used on merchant and Navy ships throughout the war, was originally donated by the Bureau of Naval Ordinance to the Junior Chamber of Commerce, also known as the Jaycees.
The Jaycees then gave it to the city.
“Fourteen coats of paint could be seen when it was being restored,” said Kramer, adding that the city can now trace the gun’s lineage because original engravings show.
The gun was originally mounted in the center of a fountain, but the city was unable to afford the $140,000 price tag that restoring the fountain as well as the monument would have cost. City Council members hope to restore the fountain in the future, but said the city’s first priority was getting the gun back into pristine condition.
“I really pushed this because there’s not a lot of interest in this down here,” said Bruce Lamberto, a member of the city’s Redevelopment and Beautification Committee.
Lamberto, a student of military history, said he’s explored Southern Memorial Park on West Dixie Highway, where the bodies of 10 World War II soldiers were returned and buried.
“It’s a waste of a young man’s life if not remembered,” Lamberto said.
This Memorial Day, at 9 a.m., the city will unveil the restored gun and announce the rededication.
After the announcement, the city will hold its annual Memorial Day celebration from 10 a.m. to noon at Challenger Park, 16501 NE 16th Ave. The event will include a gun salute, march of colors, and bagpipe and drum presentation.
“Memorial Day has turned into commercial sales,” Lamberto said. “But this reminds us what Memorial Day is really all about.”