Members of the honor guard stand tall to honor the Fallen Warrior Memorial May 24 at Offutt AFB, Neb. The memorial took two years to complete from planning through construction. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jeff W. Gates/Released)
A U.S. Army staff sergeant places a dog tag chain around the statue on the Fallen Warrior Memorial May 24 at Offutt AFB, Neb. Each branch of service had a representative of their honor guard to place a dog tag on the statue. The memorial is approximately 90’ square feet in size and features a polished black star with the seals of each service represented in bronze around it. In the center of the star will be the customary boots, rifle and helmet in bronze, constantly lit by solar accent lights. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jeff W. Gates/Released)
Crowds gather to get a closer look at the Fallen Warrior Memorial May 24 at Offutt AFB, Neb. The memorial features a polished black star with the seals of each service represented in bronzet. In the center of the star is the customary boots, rifle and helmet, constantly lit. (U.S. Air Force photo by Jeff W. Gates/Released)
by Senior Airman Peter R.O. Danielson
55th Wing Public Affairs
5/30/2012 - OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Thursday, May 24, started as an overcast day with hints of thunderstorms on the horizon. Spatters of rain ominously threatened a much greater downpour as the afternoon went on.
By mid-afternoon at Offutt Air Force Base's parade grounds, the weather had cleared. The eastward wind lifted flags held by Army, Navy, Marine and Air Force honor guardsmen. Two formations, one of Navy sailors and the other a mixed-service formation, stood in the fresh-cut grass and waited for commands. Bright sun reflected off a polished black star and bronze seals of each service. In the center of the star, a black-wrapped figure waited to be uncovered.
At 3 p.m., the Fallen Warrior Memorial unveiling ceremony began.
"We knew it was going to be a long road and we knew there would be hills to climb," said Morgan McGary, former Offutt Top 3 president. "The top of a hill always looks so far away from the bottom."
The road to building the Fallen Warrior Memorial began two years ago when Offutt Top 3 members began to push for a statue site to honor those who had fallen in combat. The site chosen was located at the historically registered parade ground, which presented challenges to construction.
"Anything we do to this parade grounds needs to be special; it has to be meaningful," said Brig. Gen. Donald Bacon, 55th Wing commander. "Today, it is."
"May we never forget the tenacity of endurance, which have purchased for us peace, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," said Chaplain (Capt.) Chad Chandler, 55th Wing chaplain.
55th Wing leadership and the contractors involved in construction unveiled the draped figure during the ceremony. This figure represents a fallen service member's helmet, rifle, boots and dog tags, arranged as a battlefield cross. A battlefield cross is used in deployed environments when religious icons are not available.
Each brick on the perimeter of the memorial will eventually be dedicated to a fallen service member. The first brick bears a plaque for Petty Officer Caleb Nelson, who was killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan on Oct. 1, 2011.
With help from private organizations and the surrounding community, the Offutt Top 3 raised more than $21,000 to construct the memorial's base and to purchase the central statue.
"We've come together as only this community can to recognize those who've made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom: their families' freedom, our freedom and even the freedom of strangers in distant lands," McGary said.
"Thank you all for your support and for sharing the belief that no climb is too high when the destination is so right," said McGary.