Thursday, May 26, 2005

A New Monument to Fallen Heroes

Visitors to Mercer County, Pennsylvania, are often taken aback by the sight of 444 American flags fluttering in the breeze at a busy street corner in the town of Hermitage. The banners at the Avenue of Flags represent the 444 days that American citizens were held hostage in Iran back in 1979.

Hermitage has a new monument going up to accompany the Avenue of Flags, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

After Monday morning's Memorial Day parade in the Mercer County town of Hermitage, the public will be able to see a new national War on Terror Memorial.

Engraved on its 12-foot-tall glass and stainless steel panels will be the names of at least 2,256 members of the U.S. military, from all over the country, who have been killed while fighting terrorism. They'll include Marine Sgt. Michael A. Marzano, 28, of nearby Greenville, killed by a suicide truck bomber in Iraq earlier this month, and U.S. Army Spc. Jonathan R. Kephart, a 21-year-old from Oil City who was killed when his patrol was ambushed in Baghdad on April 8.
The WOT Memorial is the brainchild of a caring and patriotic individual:

"This whole project is blessed," said Tom Flynn, who had the idea for the memorial on Dec. 1. He owns the Hillcrest Memorial Park where it is located, at one end of the famous "Avenue of Flags." The 444 American flags were put up each day between Nov. 4, 1979, and Jan. 20, 1981, when Americans were being held hostage in Iran.
Tom Flynn makes an important point that a lot of people have failed to see over the last couple of years. The War On Terror started long before September 11, 2001. It started before the embassy bombings, before the 1993 World Trade Center bombing attempt, before Operation Desert Storm, before the Lebanese barracks bombing, and even before the Iranian Hostage Crisis:

The first name -- Paul Shaffer -- dates to 1975, when the Air Force colonel was shot in Tehran.

"If you're doing the war on terror, you can't just start with 9/11," said Flynn, who knows of no other memorial like it.

Mr. Flynn did not spend time waiting for the WOT to end before beginning construction on the memorial:

He said he was "haunted" by how many years, or decades, it took to build memorials to casualties of other wars such as World War II. "So I thought ... we have to do it in a way that it's a living memorial, in that it's constantly updated."

As is the case now, one panel will stand empty, awaiting more names, he said. "We're trying to very subtly tell people this isn't over with."

Ultimately, this war is bigger than George W. Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard. It is bigger than Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, and Zarqawi. It is bigger than any individual or nation involved. This war is all about the future of our way of life, and could continue for innumerable years to come. Tom Flynn understands this. The War On Terror Memorial is not about maintaining a body count for political purposes. He truly reveres these fallen heroes and wants to honor what they stand for.

The PG article provides a link to the web site for the non-profit organization that is funding the project. For those who can not make it to Hermitage to see the memorial in person, the War On Terror Foundation has information on the people whose names are engraved on black glass panels in honor of their sacrifice in the service of their country.

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