Honoring Our Fallen

Honoring our fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan

A recent article by Scott Lindlaw of the Associated Press says it as well as I can. “It took seven years after the fighting had ended for the nation to dedicate the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. This time around, Americans aren’t waiting for the shooting to stop.”

The article goes on to say how small memorials are being erected around the country to honor the fallen, primarily of a state or region. The California State Military Museum dedicated the “Global War on Terrorism Wall of Honor” on September 11, 2006. Governor Arnold Schwartzenagger visited the museum as part of the day’s dedication activities and laid a wreath at the wall. Their wall is a ‘living memorial’, meaning names can be added at future dates.

I believe, as does a majority of Americans, that we need to honor all of the fallen heroes fighting the global war on terrorism now, and not some time in the distant future.

My name is Jason Savage. I’m the designer and project director for the Afghanistan & Iraq Freedom Reigns Memorial, a first of its kind, international, living memorial honoring the troops who have paid the ultimate price in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in a separate dedication, those public safety workers who gave their lives to save others after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center towers. My associate is the award-winning sculptor Carl Regutti. Mr. Regutti sculpted the famous equine life-size bronze of Aristides, Winner of the first Kentucky Derby in 1875, the centerpiece at historic Churchill Downs.

Congress established a commission to create a memorial to Roosevelt in 1955. The memorial was opened in 1997 – forty two years later. The National WWII Memorial was opened in 2005 – fifty nine years after the war ended. Funding and construction took eleven years. A group of Vietnam veterans led by Jan C. Scruggs moved from incorporation to dedication of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 3 years and 7 months. That was very impressive. However, it was almost ten years after the war ended before the memorial was dedicated. This group still did a wonderful job considering the hostility service personnel faced after that war. The Air Force Memorial took fourteen years to complete after the foundation was incorporated.

Eight years ago Mr. Regutti and I began contemplating how we might honor our military heroes. Mr. Regutti has a brother who is a high-ranking military officer. I have not served in the military, but my father was in the OSS during WWII and my mother was a stenographer on the War Crimes Trials in Nuremberg. She later worked for the CIA and then US Customs as an inspections supervisor. We want to leave a legacy honoring our military and our parents for their sacrifices.

Mr. Regutti, in addition to be a fine sculptor, is a chemist. One of my fields of expertise is graphic design. It took two and a half years of laboratory work for us to develop a technique to do high resolution etching on titanium and surgical stainless steel. That work lead to our Diamond Memory™ tributes, which are the focus of the memorial. These special tributes to the fallen troops will survive the elements for thousands of years.

This memorial will be like no other in the world. It will be the first to represent the faces of our fallen heroes in stainless. The following is quoted from the Faces of the Fallen Web site.

“Faces of the Fallen is an exhibit of more than 1,300 individual portraits honoring America’s service men and women who died in Afghanistan and Iraq during the period October 2001 to November 11, 2004. It has been on view at the Women In Military Service For America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery since March 2005. Talented artists from across the country have donated these works as their gift to a grateful nation and ultimately to the families themselves.

This unique tribute has been conceived and organized by private individuals and funded entirely with private donations. It reflects the desire, expressed in many communities and cities across the country, to honor these brave men and women.”

“To say that this exhibition is moving would be an understatement. Words always fall short when we try to describe our respect, sympathy and profound gratitude to those who have sacrificed everything in the service to our nation…The artists have succeeded where our words have failed.”

General Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (The Citizen, July 6, 2005)

Please visit www.immortalmemories.com to review other samples and more in depth information about these stainless dedications.

After designing this memorial, we wanted to get opinions from military commanders, troops, and other influential leaders on the concept. I made presentations to many of our troops at Ft. Bragg, NC. Mr. Regutti and I met with commanding generals and congressional representatives. All parties enthusiastically supported our concept. Following is a list of some of the people we met or with whom we had correspondence.

Personal presentations have been made to:

General Virgil L. Packett II Fort Bragg, NC
General Al Aycock Fort Bragg, NC
Deputy Garrison Commander Gary Knight – Fort Bragg, NC
Mayor Anthony G. Chavonne Fayetteville, NC
Major General William E. Ingram, Jr. Adjutant General – NC National Guard
LTC Jeff Brotherton Director Civil Military Affairs NC National Guard
Major Matt Handley State Public Affairs Officer NC National Guard
U.S. Congressman Bob Etheridge
Russ Swindell District Director U.S. Congressman Bob Etheridge
Navy Seal Nicholas A. Rocha, CEO of the United Warrior Survivors Foundation (UWSF). Featured on the NBC Nightly News
Wesley Meredith Fayetteville City Council member.
Jimmy Teal Chief Planning Officer Fayetteville, NC
Bruce J. Daws Fayetteville Historic Resources Commission
SFC Jose Quinones Fort Bragg, NC
John S. Duvall Airborne & Special Operations Museum Fayetteville, NC
Brigadier General Hugh B. Tant, III Introduced new Iraqi currency.
David Burnette Executive Director Patriots Point Authority, Mt. Pleasant, SC
Senator Glenn McConnell Charleston, SC
Colonel Joseph Trez General John Rosa’s Executive Assistant – The Citadel Charleston, SC
Patricia McArver VP for Communications – The Citadel Charleston, SC
Dawn Cash Widow of fallen warrior Greenville, NC
Marvin H. Sineath, D.A.V. Charleston, SC

Correspondence with:

Senator Bob Dole
Mayor Joseph P. Riley Charleston, SC
Dr. Mike Davis – Assistant Vice Chancellor – North Carolina State University Liaison to General Henry Hugh Shelton
Ellen Dressler Moryl – Director of Cultural Affairs Charleston, SC
David Hays Assistant to General Henry Hugh Shelton
Arjun Mody – Legislative Assistant – Office of Senator Elizabeth Dole
Mr. David Levy – National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC)
Mr. Michael G. Conley – American Battle Monuments Commission
William A. McIntosh President – National D-Day Memorial Foundation – Bedford, VA
Major General Harry M. Wyatt III – Adjutant General – Oklahoma National Guard
Michael E. Gonzales Curator 45th Division Infantry Museum Oklahoma City, OK

During the time we were making presentations we learned about the Commemorative Works Act of 1986. Following are several provisions of that act and a section of the 1994 amendments.

“All memorials in areas administered by the National Park Service and the General Services Administration must be authorized by Congress.”

“Memorial sites and design must be approved by NCPC, the Commission of Fine Arts, and either the Secretary of the Interior, in the case of National Park Service land, or the Administrator of the General Services, in the case of GSA land.”

“The National Capital Memorial Commission advises the Secretary of the Interior and the Administrator of General Services on policies regarding commemorative works. The NCPC Chairman is an ex-officio member of this Commission.”

“Section 2 of the Commemorative Works Act Amendments dated August 26, 1994 – (b) AUTHORIZATION. Section 3 of such Act (40 U.S.C. 1003) is amended as follows: “(b) A military commemorative work may be authorized only to commemorate a war or similar major military conflict or to commemorate any branch of the Armed Forces. No commemorative work commemorating a lesser conflict or a unit of an Armed Force shall be authorized. Commemorative works to a war or similar major military conflict shall not be authorized until at least 10 years after the officially designated end of the event.”

An IAVA (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America) representative informed us that some modifications were made to the Commemorative Works Act in 2003, but I could not find reference to those. He mentioned, in any event, congressional approval for a memorial in the DC area and environs would be a twenty-four step process. Moreover, there is strong opposition for more construction on the Mall by some private organizations. They refer to the Commemorative Works Act many times with no reference to any modifications. Adding to the procedural hurtles would be the need for approval by the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), the Commission of Fine Arts, and the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission. We’re talking about years of negotiations with no guarantee of success.

On April 12, 2007 Mr. Regutti spoke with Mr. David Levy of the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC). He reaffirmed that all new memorials for the DC Mall had to get the approval of Congress, and it would take years to accomplish. Carl also spoke with Mr. Michael Conley of the American Battle Monuments Commission. Congress established the commission in 1923 as an agency of the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. They are the guardians of America’s overseas commemorative cemeteries and memorials, and they were authorized by Congress to build the Korean and WWII memorials here in the US.

Mr. Conley mentioned that Congress is leaning toward a 10-year span before any new memorials can be built on or near the DC Mall. The advice from both gentlemen today was to forget about the DC Mall if we want to see this memorial come to pass any time soon. Mr. Conley wished us much success with the project.

So, given this information we began a search for host site. I spoke with the president of the National D-Day Memorial Foundation in Bedford, VA, Mr. William A. McIntosh. He made two suggestions. One, locate the memorial where you have an educational component. And two, have a congressional representative introduce a resolution that would confer official National memorial status immediately, even before the memorial is completed. The National September 11 Memorial & Museum is planning to do this as well.

Update: US Congressman Robert Wexler of Florida in his remarks to General David Petraeus on September 10, 2007 said, “When we build a memorial (referring to an Iraq war memorial) here in DC in 20 years…” I don’t know if he’s read the Commemorative Works Act of 1986, but that twenty years will probably be more like thirty, depending on when the war(s) actually end. Many of the parents of fallen heroes will have passed away by then.

A California mother of a fallen soldier received this reply to a letter she wrote to US Senator Dianne Feinstein. “Dianne Feinstein wrote me back after I contacted her about me erecting a memorial here, and she told me in so many words that things like this do not occur until about ten to fifteen years after the fact.” As I noted earlier, California dedicated its state, living memorial on September 11, 2006.

There’s one very important point I want mention about this memorial. It’s focus is on the people who have sacrificed their lives and not on sculptural glitz. It is, in itself, an educational endeavor. Each individual tribute features a distinctive photograph of the fallen hero along with a personal dedication written by a family member or friend. It’s our feeling that we should remember more than just names and dates. People are on this earth once. Why should they end up solely as names and dates, especially the men and women who have sacrificed their lives for their countries and their fellow man? This memorial introduces a reality about loss. Centuries from now their sacrifices will be remembered.

This memorial is international in scope. It will feature the fallen from the US as well as the coalition forces. It will include the names of the wounded and photos depicting different aspects of the wars. In addition, we plan to memorialize the public safety workers, including the firefighters, police and port authority personnel, who gave their lives after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center towers in an effort to save others.

We now have a location that features an even broader educational component, the 45th Infantry Division Museum (www.45thdivisionmuseum.com) in Oklahoma City, OK. This is one of the finest military museums in the nation. Curator Michael Gonzales is very excited about this opportunity. The head of the museum, Major General Harry M. Wyatt III, had JAG contact city representatives for final approval. Oklahoma City is home to The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. The city is located approximately in the center of the nation, and they host over eight million visitors a year.

Senator Joe Lieberman on March 22, 2007 made this insightful comment. “Our military is fully engaged in this war, but most of the rest of America is not. Five years after September 11, very little has been asked of the American people. Instead of mobilizing as a nation, the burden of this war has fallen disproportionately on the few… on our soldiers, our brave men and women in uniform. They are the ones who have put their lives on the line so that freedom may prevail. In this chamber, and across our land, there have been great differences of opinion about how we should pursue the war in Iraq, but there has been great unity of opinion that our troops there should be honored. We must support them.”

Larry Diamond of Stanford’s Hoover Institution said, “America is not at war. The US Army is at war. The rest of us are just watching, or just ignoring, while the whole fight is carried on by 150,000 soldiers and their families.”

We need to show the troops and the families of the fallen that we, as America, care and will remember their sacrifices. It doesn’t take the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), the Commission of Fine Arts, or the National Capital Memorial Advisory Commission to decide when or where, other than in the DC area, a memorial should be built or how it will look. The American people want to honor these heroes now!

This isn’t about us. It’s about memorializing those who have paid the ultimate price for their countries. It’s for the families of those men and women, the heroes who will never see the future, see their parents get old, or see their children grow up. They will never have the opportunities you and I enjoy.

Moreover, this is not about the political rights or wrongs of these wars. It’s about honoring our hero’s sacrifices now and remembering them for generations to come.

Thank you very much for taking your valuable time to read this paper.

Sincerely yours,



Jason Savage
President/Project Director

This paper was written in 2008.

This paper can be downloaded as a PDF file from our Press page.