Sign of appreciation all to soldiers

Monday’s gift to the National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center at Patriot Park was personal for Columbus car dealer Carl Gregory.

“This is a wonderful project,” Gregory said as he stood in front of a M3A1 Stuart tank, manufactured by Chrysler. Gregory sells Chrysler products.

“This is my way of showing appreciation to all soldiers — Army, Navy, Air Force,” he said. “I just want to say thank you.”

He said thanks to the tune of $250,000. He presented the ceremonial check to retired Maj. Gen. Jerry White, who has been leading the fundraising efforts for the National Infantry Foundation.

The $91 million center is under construction on South Lumpkin Road and is scheduled to open March 20, 2009. The foundation has raised more than $81 million, including Gregory’s gift. The fundraising goal is $104 million.

Gregory’s gift comes at a time when the economy is stalling, and that is not lost on White.

“I think Carl understands the importance of this project about as well as anybody,” White said. “He said from the beginning he wanted to help us. You have seen all the negative statements about the auto industry. He wanted to make a statement. A quarter of a million dollars is significant.”

Gregory’s father, Clayton E. Gregory, was retired Air Force and his son, Joshua, spent four years as an Army Ranger.

Gregory owns dealerships in six Southeast cities, including Columbus. He sees this as an investment in Fort Benning.

“What’s good for Fort Benning is good for Columbus and Carl Gregory, and vice versa,” Gregory said.