Wall of Remembrance memorial makes stop in Athens

By Lora Scrippslora The News Courier

Commander Lyle Sadler spent Wednesday night on watch at the Alabama Veterans Museum and Archives in Athens. His duty — to guard a traveling memorial that honors those who paid the ultimate price for freedom. Last night veteran Michael Hardy kept watch. The same duty will be upheld by other military veterans, who are sponsoring the Athens stop, until the memorial leaves for its next destination.

The traveling memorial known as the Global War on Terror Wall of Remembrance is on display through Sunday at the Alabama Veterans Museum and Archives. The public can view it free 24 hours a day.

The memorial, on tour throughout the United States and currently on its first stop in Alabama, was inspired by three factors — a wish by active duty military for a memorial, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and Vietnam veterans.

Covering more than four decades of tragedy, the memorial follows the Global War on Terror from the 1983 bombing of the Marine Corps barracks in Lebanon to the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013. It also contains the names of all fallen military from Desert Shield/Storm, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn and all victims of 9/11 attacks.

The memorial was designed, built and funded in 2011 by U.S. Marine David Brown and Founder Richard “JR” Nichols for the 10-year remembrance of 9/11. Nichols, the founder of the Rear Area Support Foundation and Vision 2 Victory, said the memorial was built to be displayed once. However, due to the reaction of those who had viewed the wall, he and Brown agreed to find a way for it to travel around the country.

Since July 2013, the memorial has traveled more than 15,000 miles and been displayed in 36 cities across the nation.

“The wall is a way to pay tribute to the victims of 9/11 and all those who have been fighting the war on terrorism around the country,” Nichols said. “There is no way to pay all the true thanks to those that made the ultimate sacrifice. The only thing we can do is remember them and that is the ultimate thanks. Remembering them, their story, who they are and their legacy.”

Nichols hopes parents will bring their kids, teachers will bring their students and patriots as well as others will come out to view the memorial. He said it’s a part of history.

“The wall is impressive,” said Steve Hornberger, administrative assistant at the Alabama Veterans Museum and Archives. “It is 100-feet long.”

The wall stands 6-feet high. Some consider the memorial a walking history lesson. Local author Jerry Barksdale, who frequently writes about the military careers of area veterans, visited the memorial Thursday. He admitted it brought back memories.

“I think everybody should come and bring their children,” Barksdale said. “This is what can happen and the younger generation needs to know.” Nichols said the goal is to get within 50 miles of the hometown of every name included on the wall.

Barksdale added Major William E. Winter’s name is on the wall.  “He was killed in Lebanon and was from Limestone County,” Barksdale said, adding there is a display in the Veterans Museum in his honor.

Sadler said he thinks it’s “fantastic” that the memorial’s first stop in Alabama is Athens.

“I just hope everybody comes out and looks at it,” Sadler said.

Next stop, Santa Rosa, California, where the memorial will be updated with new names and the tour around the country will start again.

The Alabama Veterans Museum and Archives is located at 100 West Pryor St. in Athens. Donations are accepted.

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