Honor etched in stone: New monument bears the names of 41 fallen 5th Bde., 2nd Inf. Div. Soldiers
September 10, 2010
By Rick Wood
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Slightly shaking, eye's filled with sorrow, Dan Graham's finger's traced the name of his son, Spc. Kevin Graham, one of the 41 fallen 5th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division's Soldiers names now etched in stone at Puyallup Veteran's Memorial at Pioneer Park.
"I wouldn't have missed it," said Graham, who along with his wife Sandy made the trip from Kentucky to attend the unveiling. "It seems like the appropriate thing to do."
Earlier the couple spent some time with 5th Brigade Soldiers who had known Kevin, he said.
"It means a lot to us to see him honored this way," Graham said.
Thousands of people gathered to honor and remember those whose names are carved into the memorial, including the family of Pfc. Jacob Dennis, the most recent name added.
Second Brigade (formerly 5th Brigade) Commander Col. Barry Huggins said the monument to the brigade's Soldiers would help heal wounds and bring some closure.
"To some, the Soldier is an impressive figure; square-jawed, barrel-chested, festooned with ribbons, resolute - but the truth is, soldiering can be an uncertain business, and Soldiers are full of questions," Huggins said.
Soldiers in combat are sometimes left wondering why some events happen and what it means to lose friends and comrades, he said.
"Amidst all this uncertainty, it means a lot to a Soldier to have a touchstone, a rock, something to believe in," Huggins said. "It may be family, or faith, or your buddies. For the returning veterans of the 5th Brigade, and those of us who bear their legacy going forward - this memorial, and the people of Puyallup, are a rock."
It is a tremendous comfort to know that someone cares, he said.
"These families who have lost so much can never be made whole; but they can take some small comfort in the fact that somewhere - that right here, in Puyallup - someone cared enough to memorialize their Soldier," Huggins said. "The leaders, and civic organizations, and the veterans, and the citizens of this wonderful city do care - and that's a nice piece of certainty."
As wreaths were laid at the memorial, families, community members and friends watched the solemn procession.
Beneath the veil of a large American flag hoisted into the air by a fire truck, loved ones and supporters listened as the names of the fallen were read aloud.
Puyallup Mayor Kathy Turner said the community is happy the brigade has returned and that Puyallup is proud to honor the Soldiers and their families.
"On behalf of the City of Puyallup, we welcome you home," Turner said.
Every loss the unit suffered hit home with tremendous sorrow, she said.
"The first person killed in the Iraq war was Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Chapman of Puyallup," Turner said. "From that day forward Puyallup stepped up to support our soldiers at war.
The City of Puyallup Subchapter of the Association of the United States Army supported the brigade by sending Christmas care packages and letters, and by attending the memorials of those who were killed, she said.
Rick Wood is a reporter with Joint Base Lewis-McChord's weekly newspaper, the Northwest Guardian.