BRANSON, Mo. – The Branson Veterans Memorial Garden, often called “the gateway to Branson,” has received several new features thanks to a grant and community donations.
The garden received a $1,000 “Operation Surprise” grant from Home Depot as a tribute to the late Ben Kinel, a former marine sergeant and originator of the memorial who passed away in July of last year.
The grant is being used to put finishing touches on the memorial and finalize the layout of the land in the back of the garden. New additions to the garden funded by the grant include plant labels for educational purposes, parking signs, a fence around the rear of the property and a new trail sign.
Now titled, “The Freedom Trail,” the garden’s trail features a butterfly garden and a new hosta garden, Kinel’s favorite plant, made in his memory.
“This grant helped us to accomplish this and to begin our final phase of the garden,” Garden Administrator Jana Evans, who took over the memorial’s duties after Kinel passed, told Branson Tri-Lake News. “It helped us build a fence all along the back of the property to give our garden a nice background. Now we have a place to store our compost pile and dirt and garden necessities and they will be out of sight of the visitors of the garden.”
Other features include a water fountain donated by a local funeral home in Forsyth along with garden sculptures and a bronze World War II statue donated by the city of Branson. The memorial also hosts an “Honor Wall,” where families can purchase a metal plaque to hang in honor of a loved one who served in the military.
While the staff does maintain a beautiful garden and flowers, honoring United States veterans is the utmost priority, the website says.
“It is the purpose of the Veterans Memorial Garden to show our appreciation to our veterans and to say “THANKS” for their service,” the memorial’s homepage reads. “The citizens of Branson are dedicated to encouraging and fostering patriotism and providing recognition to all veterans for their courage and willingness to serve.”
Other donations made to the garden over the years include an archway given by a veteran and a white gazebo donated by Kinel in tribute to his sister.
“My one big wish financially would be to have a beautiful big sign on the corner,” Evans said. “A lot of people drove by through the years and didn’t know what it was. They just saw flowers.”
Although the staff and visitors are enjoying the new upgrades, Evans says the excessive heat has increased the need for additional volunteers at the memorial. She encourages anyone who is interested to reach out to her at (417) 294-5092. Those interested in donating can visit the memorial’s website here.
“The main reason (to visit the memorial) is to know you are honoring our Veterans. Everyone who walks in that garden knows why that garden is there.”