Display memorializes Iraq and Afghanistan veterans

The new Iraq/Afghanistan Dog Tag Memorial before an unveiling ceremony at the Museum of the Forgotten Warrior outside of Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Nov. 10, 2011. The memorial was built to honor all of the servicemembers who have been killed during the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Fowler/Released)

The new Iraq/Afghanistan Dog Tag Memorial before an unveiling ceremony at the Museum of the Forgotten Warrior outside of Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Nov. 10, 2011. The memorial was built to honor all of the service members who were killed during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Fowler/Released)

Airmen from Beale Air Force Base, Calif. salute while Tony Pinteo, Vietnam War veteran, plays the bugle during a ceremony at the Museum of the Forgotten Warrior in Marysville, Calif., Nov. 10, 2011.  The ceremony is to honor the opening of the Iraq/Afghanistan Dog Tag Memorial which honors servicemembers lost during the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Fowler/Released)

Airmen from Beale Air Force Base, Calif., salute while Tony Pinteo, Vietnam War veteran, plays the bugle during a ceremony at the Museum of the Forgotten Warrior in Marysville, Calif., Nov. 10, 2011. The ceremony was held to commemorate the opening of the Iraq/Afghanistan Dog Tag Memorial which honors service members lost during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Fowler/Released)

U.S. Air Force Maj. Cary Simpson, 349th Logistics Readiness Squadron plans officer, pours sand from Afghanistan onto a memorial during a ceremony at the Museum of the Forgotten Warrior outside of Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Nov. 10, 2011. The memorial was built to honor all of the servicemembers who have been killed during the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars as of October 30, 2011, containing over 6296 individual dog tags.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Fowler/Released)

U.S. Air Force Maj. Cary Simpson, 349th Logistics Readiness Squadron plans officer, pours sand from Afghanistan onto a memorial during a ceremony at the Museum of the Forgotten Warrior outside of Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Nov. 10, 2011. The memorial was built to honor all of the service members who were killed during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as of October 30, 2011 -- containing more than 6,296 individual dog tags. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Fowler/Released)

A crowd of active duty and retired military as well as local residents watch an unvieling ceremony at the Museum of the Forgotten Warrior outside of Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Nov. 10, 2011.  The museum  unveiled a memorial in honor of the servicemembers killed during the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Fowler)

A crowd of active duty and retired military as well as local residents watch an unvieling ceremony at the Museum of the Forgotten Warrior outside of Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Nov. 10, 2011. The museum unveiled a memorial in honor of the service members killed during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Fowler)

Dogs tags hang from the Iraq/Afghanistan Dog Tag Memorial at the Museum of the Forgotten Warrior outside of Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Nov. 10, 2011.  The memorial was built to honor all of the men and women who have been killed during the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars as of October 30, 2011, containing 6296 individual dog tags.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Fowler)

Dogs tags hang from the Iraq/Afghanistan Dog Tag Memorial at the Museum of the Forgotten Warrior outside of Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Nov. 10, 2011. The memorial was built to honor all of the men and women who have been killed during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as of October 30, 2011 -- containing 6,296 individual dog tags. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Fowler)

Flags flap in the wind outside of the Museum of the Forgotten Warrior near Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Nov. 10, 2011. The museum houses items and uniforms from all branches of services and periods honoring military members who have been lost during the various wars the United States have fought.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Fowler/Released)

Flags flap in the wind outside of the Museum of the Forgotten Warrior near Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Nov. 10, 2011. The museum houses items and uniforms from all branches of services and periods honoring military members who have been lost during the various wars the United States have fought. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Fowler/Released)

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., -- As the sun rose over the barn red walls and freshly laid gravel, slight wind through the new memorial sent 6,297 dog tags swinging, creating a low chiming sound. A crowd of spectators stepped back from thousands of reflections created by the tags, each representing a service member who has lost their life during the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Only moments later the area was called to attention and a Vietnam War veteran started playing taps on the bugle.

The flag at the head of the new Iraq and Afghanistan War Memorial at the Museum of the Forgotten Warrior, Marysville, Calif., was lowered to half mast, and the new display was dedicated by Dann Spear, founder, curator and president of the museum.

"Our display does not send a political message, but rather shows all of us the true cost that our military people have paid," he said. "These tags are not named, which represents each person who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country without regard to branch of service, rank or gender."

Two small cement bowls, flickering with the tags' reflections, were then filled with soil from each country signifying the hallowed ground where each life was lost.

"This memorial has been an obsession of mine for nine months," Spear said. "I wanted something unique to live up to these men and women's sacrifice."

Although the memorial was Spear's idea, he said without the help of Beale Airmen, local community members, and businesses it would not have been possible. Airmen from the 9th Communications Squadron, 13th Intelligence Squadron and Airman Leadership School participated in the construction of the project.

Airman 1st Class Brent Wilcoxson, 9th CS knowledge operations technician, who has deployed in support of the wars, spent several hours digging post holes, shoveling gravel and stringing dog tags to hang for the memorial.

"I have lost a friend in each war and I couldn't think of a better way to have them remembered than to give my time on this special project" he said. "We put a lot of sweat into making this memorial look good and I think we succeeded."

Spear said the most amazing portion of the construction was after all the tags were placed on the chain and Airmen were preparing to place the procession.

"Not one of those tags touched the ground even though the chain was so long it went almost around the building," he said. "Those Airmen were so careful to show respect to their fellow service members; it was just amazing."

Although there are many spaces on the chain to expand the project, Spears has a different vision for the future.

"Every day my fervent prayer is to not add one more tag to this memorial," he said. "I'd would rather see every Airman, Sailor, Soldier and Marine come home as a living memorial to our great country."