In 1984, the Clarke County Board of Commissioners began planning to build an annex and parking deck for the Clarke County Courthouse, both to meet the needs of a growing population and to alleviate the demand for downtown parking. The Athens Veterans Memorial Fund Committee sought to include a memorial in the project. Athens had memorials to honor those who served in the American Revolution and the Civil War, but not for soldiers in the wars of the Twentieth Century. The Board agreed, October, 1985, to provide a site for the memorial in the space between the expanded Courthouse and the parking deck.
The Memorial Fund committee created rules for a design competition and selected a jury of local Purple Heart recipients to choose the best ten designs. From these ten, the committee selected the three finalists: Brian Kent; Darci Heil and Shane Shook; and David Lunde, John Threadgill, and Horace Farlowe. After reviewing the artwork and models for each proposal, in May, 1986, they chose Brian Kent's proposal. Kent is a graduate of Cedar Shoals High School and the University of Georgia’s School of Environmental Design.
The committee launched a fund-raising campaign for the memorial. Among the events held during the campaign were a bicycle ride organized by Sunshine Cycle Shop, a radiothon, and a Veterans Day banquet. While the campaign fostered public interest and generated funds sufficient to cover roughly one-third of the construction costs, estimates of the memorial plaza’s costs were higher than expected; the County ultimately covered the rest of the costs.
The memorial was dedicated with a parade, May 25, 1990. Tommy Clack, wounded in Vietnam, gave the memorial address. Veterans from four wars served as grand marshals for a parade leading to the ceremony. From the First World War, John L. Silbereisen, Navy; Arthur Johnson, Sr., Army; Robert Lee Van Barcom, Navy. From the Second World War, Major H. Randolph Holder, Army. From the Korean War, George Smith, Army. From the Vietnam War, Lee Ellis, Air Force.