Display memorializes Iraq and Afghanistan veterans
By Airman 1st Class Shawn Nickel, 9th RW Public Affairs
/ Published November 17, 2011
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."