Let the construction begin.

A state Parks and Recreation Department grant - the largest given during this cycle for the agency - has put the Curry County Veterans Memorial Association over the top in its fundraising efforts to build a memorial in Gold Beach.

Susan Brown, who was working with the organization for more than a year before being elected county commissioner, announced the $80,000 grant Thursday.

"This puts the project in the construction phase," she told association board members. "That's very good."

Construction will begin in May and will cost $130,000.

The project, located near the jet boat docks at the harbor in Gold Beach, will feature an open-air concrete and brick walled area with walkways to the center where a U.S. flag will be mounted. Pillars along the walls will honor the different branches of the military and those who were first responders in law enforcement and fire services who have died in Curry County in the line of duty. The pillars in the rear of the memorial will be 2 feet taller than those in the front. And the pillars will have mounted upon them tiles people purchase on which will be written the name of the service member, the branch in which he or she served and their date of death. The paths leading to the center will be inlaid brick.

The cement area within the walls will feature benches on which people can sit to reflect.

The 1.5-acre site was donated by the Port of Gold Beach and the city of Gold Beach is sponsoring the project.

Tile purchases and other donations brought the association to the $43,000 mark, said chair Sam Vitale. The board is also applying for a $1,000 grant from the Curry County Cultural Coalition.

Merchant Marine veterans will be honored on the pillars with the U.S. Navy, as they didn't become their own service until after World War II. Currently, they operate under the auspices of the Coast Guard, which is under Homeland Security.

"So many of them were lost in World War II - thousands," Vitale said. "They should be honored. Everywhere I go, they are honored."

Currently, the association has sold 178 tiles; a total of 410 are available. Once 300 tiles have been sold, the price will increase to $230, as the manufacturer increased the cost since the deal was first established two years ago.

Those wishing to purchase a tile can obtain an application form at the Veterans of Foreign War hall, 507 Pacific Drive in Brookings.

"This is the day we've been waiting for," Vitale said with a big grin.