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thedrifter
12-04-07, 08:46 AM
Tuesday, Dec. 04, 2007
PA. MILITARY MUSEUM
Chimes of freedom may ring for soldiers

National Guard seeks funds to honor 82 fallen members in Iraq
Chris Rosenblum
- crosenbl@centredaily.com

Someday in Boalsburg, remembrances of the dead might chime in the wind.

http://media.centredaily.com/smedia/2007/12/04/01/890-cdt-20071204-A001-chimesoffreedom-9678-MI0001.embedded.prod_affiliate.42.jpg

Two brigade soldiers designed this memorial in Iraq to the 82 members of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team killed there from 2005 to 2006. Now the Pennsylvania National Guard Foundation hopes to build a similar monument at the state Military Museum in Boalsburg.

The Pennsylvania National Guard Foundation recently began raising money for a memorial to the 82 members of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team killed in Iraq from 2005 to 2006.

The proposed memorial, planned for near the Pennsylvania Military Museum’s 28th Infantry Division Shrine in Boalsburg, could include replica dog tags dangling inside an obelisk. It’s one of the features copied from a monument built at the brigade’s headquarters in Ramadi and brought back to Fort Indiantown Gap.

“When the wind blows and you hear the dog tags rustling there, it really adds quite an element to the design,” said Lt. Col. Christopher Yeakle, of Grove City, a brigade member now organizing the drive for the memorial.

The largest Pennsylvania unit deployed at the time, the 28th Division brigade consisted of 2,500 soldiers, among them a handful of Centre County residents who volunteered to go.

Vermont, Utah, Michigan, Indiana, Nebraska and Kentucky units also joined the brigade, as did an active duty Army battalion and a Marine battalion once overseas. In Iraq, the brigade provided security for national elections, trained Iraqi Army and local police forces, and conducted combat operations.

Sixteen Pennsylvanians — 15 Guard members and one Marine — died before the brigade returned home.

Yeakle said the nonprofit Pennsylvania National Guard Foundation hopes to collect about $100,000 in private funds for the 28-foot high memorial. The preliminary design calls for an iron obelisk mounted on a granite pedestal engraved with names. Through holes peppering the obelisk’s polished surface, as if from shrapnel, light will blaze at night. On top will sit a glass pyramid made from the windshields of damaged military vehicles.

“You can almost feel the spirits of the fallen around you as you’re looking at it,” Yeakle said. “It really gives you a connection to what they sacrificed.”

As envisioned, the memorial will be a slightly larger version of the wartime obelisk designed by two brigade soldiers, a school art teacher and an artist, and built largely from scrap steel.

“You’d go by all times of day and night, and somebody would be there looking at it, reflecting on the different soldiers and Marines we lost,” Yeakle said.

Though the brigade plans to dedicate the memorial in May 2009, construction won’t start until the fundraising goal is met, Yeakle said.

William Leech, executive director of the Pennsylvania Military Museum, said any approved design likely will stand to the right of visitors facing the shrine. But no exact spot has been chosen yet.

“Everything is very preliminary,” Leech said.

Leech said the memorial, which will be the first unit tribute added to the museum grounds in at least 25 years, will help tell the 28th Division’s illustrious story.

“It certainly brings the shrine more up to date,” he said.

Mike Wenrick, of Pleasant Gap, served with the brigade as a platoon staff sergeant. He remembers being impressed by the Iraq memorial while passing through Camp Ramadi on a mission.

He also recalls waiting for a telephone or computer while families of slain soldiers were notified.

“Those guys gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country,” Wenrick said. “They definitely deserve, at the very least, this kind of recognition.”

Chris Rosenblum can be reached at 231-4620.

Ellie