Memorial under tree honors soldiers killed outside of combat
A national memorial honoring soldiers who die in missions other than declared wars was dedicated Tuesday, a decade after gruesome images of a soldier's body being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia, inspired high school students in Ohio to propose the idea.
The memorial to soldiers killed in terrorist attacks, training accidents, covert operations, humanitarian efforts and peacekeeping activities is the first new one at Arlington National Cemetery in nearly a decade.
Students at Riverside High School in northeast Ohio came up with the concept in 1993, after they watched broadcasts from Somalia and wondered why no memorial existed for such soldiers' deaths. They took their idea to Rep. Steve LaTourette, R-Ohio, who introduced a bill in Congress to authorize the memorial.
The exact number of soldiers the memorial honors is not known. It includes those killed in the terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the USS Cole, and those who died in operations in Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Panama.
It also honors those killed in the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, the failed rescue attempt of American hostages in Iran in 1979 and those killed in Iraq after last year's end of the declared war.
“The list is long and incomplete, and the sacrifice is often not given the recognition it deserves,” LaTourette said at the dedication ceremony, which was attended by some current and former Riverside students.
The memorial is simple — a red granite block under a magnolia tree. It's a far cry from the 40-foot, red granite “Pyramid of Remembrance” with sheets of water cascading down its sides that the students originally envisioned would be built on the National Mall, the grassy area between the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial.
That concept had drawn support from the National Park Service, Defense Department and two key military leaders at the time: Defense Secretary William Cohen and Gen. Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
But the plan ran into roadblocks. Under federal law, only memorials for declared wars can be placed on the mall. A bill to authorize the memorial passed the House twice but wasn't considered in the Senate.
The students didn't want the memorial placed on Defense Department land that has restricted access, so when a site at Arlington National Cemetery was offered, they quickly accepted.
“It's very different in its design, but it hasn't changed in what it was meant to commemorate,” said Jodie Reckart, a 1994 Riverside graduate.
Her class came up with the idea and students after them took up the project and worked on it as part of an extracurricular club that met in the evenings. They formed the nonprofit Pyramid of Remembrance Foundation and raised $12,000.
The funds paid for the $3,500 memorial and tree at Arlington, as well as a sister memorial and tree to be placed on the school's campus. Remaining funds were used to help about two dozen current students travel to the dedication.
“As the tree lives on, hopefully so too will the memory of their sacrifices,” student Shelby Werronon said.
The memorial is one of about 175 “living memorials” at the cemetery, most of which include a plaque installed beside a tree.
Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans General Richard Cody, left, hands a coin to
Pyramid of Remembrance Living Memorial 1994 Chairman Jodie Reckert, center, while
current Chairman Nick Iorio, right, watches, after a dedication ceremony, Tuesday,
May 11, 2004 at Arlington National Cemetery. The memorial was spearheaded by teacher Dr. Mary
Porter and students of Riverside High School in Painesville Township, Ohio,
inspired by the sight of a soldier dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia.
Pyramid of Remembrance Living Memorial current Chairman Nick Iorio, left,
and 1994 Chairman Jodie Reckert, second left, plant a magnolia tree to the memorial as fellow
students from Riverside High School and teacher Dr. Mary Porter, right, watch during a dedication
ceremony, Tuesday, May 11, 2004 at Arlington National Cemetery. The memorial was spearheaded
by Porter and students of Riverside High School in Painesville Township, Ohio,
inspired by the sight of a soldier dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia
The plaque to the Pyramid of Remembrance Living Memorial is dedicated Tuesday, May 11, 2004 at
Arlington National Cemetery. The national memorial honoring soldiers who die in missions other than
declared wars was dedicated Tuesday, a decade after gruesome images of a soldier's body being dragged
through the streets of Mogadishu, Somalia, inspired high school students in Ohio to propose the idea
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Michael Robert Patterson was born in Arlington and is the son of a former officer of the US Army. So it was no wonder that sooner or later his interests drew him to American history and especially to American military history. Many of his articles can be found on renowned portals like the New York Times, Washingtonpost or Wikipedia.
Reviewed by: Michael Howard