Designed to stand as a beacon of appreciation to America’s veterans— past, present and future— a special bell tower was recently installed at Georgia National Cemetery west of Canton.

Four stories tall, the Veterans Tribute Tower is a state-of-the-art carillon bell tower and was installed on May 16 at the traffic circle, just past the public information center near the cemetery’s entrance. This location was chosen due to it being one of the highest and most visible points in the cemetery, according to Lauren Minter, a member of the committee that is responsible for the project. The tower was built in the United States by the Verdin Co. of Cincinnati and has three cast bronze bells, in addition to an audio system which can play more than 7,800 musical selections in various genres or voices. This audio system can be heard across the entire cemetery, with an inaugural concert set to be coordinated for later this year, Minter said.

The Veterans Tribute Tower was paid for entirely through donations made through the GNC Advisory Council, which raised nearly $400,000 to complete the project, Minter said. Along with the financial donations, the bells inside the tower, cast following a ceremony on March 6 at the Verdin foundry, were made partly from military medals and other mementos from American wars. Among the multitude of items donated for the bells was a whistle dating back to World War I from a family with ties in the Columbus and Sandy Springs areas.

According to a story shared by family members who donated the whistle, “Walter Binford was a beloved character, passionate and full of life. When the Great War was raging, he lied about his age and joined the war effort. He yearned for excitement and glory, but found humbling and unthinkable carnage on the battlefields. He barely survived shrapnel, gun shots and gassings. In 1918, Walter Binford picked up this tiny whistle on a battlefield in France. It had been untouched by the bombings, so he kept it as a memento. After the war, Walter Binford’s wounds claimed him before he could have children, but in 2018, the family welcomed a baby boy at Northside Hospital and named him Walter in honor of their beloved WWI hero. The family believes that Walter Binford would be proud to know that his whistle-of-war has become a bell-of-peace, and after 100 years, his service and sacrifice is not forgotten.”

When the tower was finished and ready to be delivered to Georgia National Cemetery, it was transported across four state lines by an escort of more than 125 motorcycles from groups such as the Patriot Guard Riders and the Honor Guard Riders, 30 corvettes and countless first responders on May 15, Minter said.

Now that the tower has been installed at its permanent home, hardscaping and landscaping is taking place around its base, and an official dedication of the tower will be held later this year, Minter said. For updates regarding the Veterans Tribute Tower, visit www.ganationalcemetery.org.

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