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The Protectors of Freedom memorial remains a work in progress in Bey Lea Park on Bay Avenue in Toms River. A dedication ceremony is planned for June 26. Erik Larsen

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TOMS RIVER - A century of service by the men and women in America's armed forces is to be honored with a permanent memorial in the township's Bey Lea Park on Bay Avenue.

Called "Protectors of Freedom," by local sculptor Brian Hanlon and funded through The Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation, the monument depicts six service members from conflicts beginning with World War I to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars amid an outcrop.

A dedication ceremony is planned for noon on June 26, which marks the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first U.S. troops in France in what was then called the Great War.

Township Administrator Paul J. Shives said the municipal government will maintain the memorial as part of Bey Lea Park.

"We had to obtain the consent of the state Green Acres program (Department of Environmental Protection) to permit the memorial to be constructed about two years ago," Shives said. "And, yes, we will maintain the area as part of the parkland."

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Dedicated to academics and the arts, The Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation is responsible for a number of public monuments that have appeared throughout the Toms River area in recent years.

For example, the foundation in 2014 funded the "Welcome to Ocean County" sculpture on municipal land at the corner of Routes 37 and 166 in Toms River, paying homage to the resiliency of local residents in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy.

The five statues (one statue includes two figures) in "Protectors of Freedom" feature a World War I "doughboy" (nicknamed so because the brass buttons on U.S. Army uniforms of the period resembled fried flour dumplings); a soldier from the Korean War calling for support on a radio; a wounded World War II soldier being carried from the battlefield by a 21st century American service member; and a Vietnam War infantryman escorting an Army nurse through a dangerous environment.

Erik Larsen: 732-682-9359 or elarsen@gannettnj.com    

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