A lonely pair of sand colored boots to the left and right of a combat helmet on top of an M-4 rifle balanced on its muzzle; while twenty-four painful notes play a simple melody, which expresses our gratitude when words fail. A chaplain delivers a message of hope while uniformed brothers and sisters mourn the loss of their own.
This describes a scene played out for fallen U.S. service members in a combat zone. It is an opportunity for the uniformed family of the fallen to mourn, a time to reflect and observe.
At the center is a simple display, which speaks volumes to everyone who has ever worn or knows of someone who has worn a military uniform. The helmet, rifle and boots represent the fallen; it gives the service family a chance at closure.
The display, usually made of wood, or fashioned from materials the affected unit can find, is a common, yet elusive, object in combat zones. But, that is about to change.
When U.S. Army Chaplain Maj. Andrew Shriver, visited Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center, or NSRDEC, he proposed a more permanent solution, and the Portable Memorial Stand was created.
"I have worked with Natick Soldier Systems Center on different projects over the last eight years and have benefited greatly from their knowledge and expertise on a wide range of topics," said Shriver. "Their creation of the portable memorial stand fills a need for something which does not exist in any government inventory currently."
While at NSRDEC, Shriver explained the concept of this memorial stand to Col. Charles May, NSRDEC military deputy, who enlisted the help of Ms. Mary Macdonald and Mr. Stephen Macintosh of facility's fabrication department. The team finalized the design, created a prototype and shipped it to Fort Belvoir Community Hospital (FBCH).
Once the Portable Memorial Stand arrived, FBCH Police provided an M4 to test the prototype in the Hospital Chapel. The stand is a success. However, for Chaplain Shriver, this is only the beginning.
"As the U.S. military regains its knowledge regarding the expeditionary environment, there is a need for unique equipment that will enable service members to perform their jobs," said Shriver. "In putting together a Religious Support Expeditionary System utilizing off-the-shelf items, like the portable memorial stand, we can meet those unique requirements."
Shriver said that he's seen soldiers and leaders stress about jerry-rigged memorial stands only to see the rifle slip during the ceremony. This simple, portable device would eliminate that problem and enable service members to always have a reliable memorial stand in any downrange or garrison environment.
Presently, FBCH is the only unit in DOD that has such a device, but with its success the Defense Logistics Agency could soon have it in their inventory for units to order as needed.