FORT HOOD, Texas - Honoring the sacrifices of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines since Sept. 11, 2001, approximately 7,700 boots are now on display at the Sadowski Parade Field here for the annual III Corps and Fort Hood Remembrance Display.
“Independence of our country was not won without sacrifice and during the July 4th timeframe, it is important for us all to remember that freedom is not free,” event organizer Kent Brickman, branch manager of Army Community Service’s Wounded and Fallen Branch, explained. “There is a cost and the display is just a small representation of the massive respect we all have for our fallen heroes and those who have been left behind missing them.”
The annual display, which originally began in 2014, honors the fallen with a combat boot containing an American flag. Each boot identifies a fallen service member with a badge displaying a picture and the name of the service member. Throughout the years, friends and family members write messages and leave mementos on the boots.
Brickman said the mementos remain with the boots, but advised that due to weather, mementos such as flowers and pictures may incur weather damage from wind, rain and sun. He added that the only things that would be removed from a display are any items which may be detrimental or cause a health concern. He advised visitors not to leave anything hazardous, such as knives or alcoholic beverages, at the displays.
Dozens of volunteers and Soldiers help set up the display annually. This year, eight units – 3rd Cavalry Regiment; 11th Theater Tactical Signal Brigade; 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command; 15th Military Intelligence Battalion; 36th Engineer Bde.; 69th Air Defense Artillery Bde.; 89th Military Police Bde.; and Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, III Corps – assisted with the display Wednesday morning.
“I am absolutely amazed at how extremely supportive our community is, each and every year,” Brickman added. “Many of our volunteers find it a calling to honor the fallen, whether that is because they are a survivor themselves, a friend, a patriotic person, or someone who cares enough to want to help wherever possible.”
As Soldiers placed the boots, some reflected on the lives represented on the field.
“We should never forget what these Soldiers did for their country,” Sgt. 1st Class Francisco Trevino, 3rd Cav. Regt., said. “They gave their lives for our freedom.”
After all the boots are arranged by year, volunteers go through and replace faded or worn name badges. Brickman said they replace about 1,500 to 2,000 badges per year that volunteers have created.
The III Corps and Fort Hood Remembrance Display can viewed from sunrise to sunset through July 6. When looking for a specific service member, be advised that some boots may have been moved to be linked with another fallen service member.
“Visitors to the display will notice that some boots are tied together and this is quite significant,” Brickman added. “Boots being attached to one another can mean one of many things. True examples are siblings who both have passed away, battle buddies who were lost during the same operation, or friends who placed a boot to represent their friend and then later passed away as well.”
He said the entire display has been “blessed” with support from the community, and visitors, some who travel from other states to participate or view the display.
“It is important that our fallen heroes are never forgotten. It is also incredibly important to remember freedom is not free,” Brickman added. “Some have paid the ultimate price and their sacrifice must be honored.”