By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
Liam McGee was about 18 months when on Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaida terrorists attacked the United States with four hijacked commercial-passenger planes.
Liam, now 16 and a senior patrol leader for Boy Scout Troop 28 at Howland Community Church, was looking for an Eagle Scout service project and decided it was time Trumbull County had a memorial to honor the men and women who have fought and died in Iraq and Afghanistan and the war on terrorism.
So about a year ago, the junior at Mathews High School in Vienna combined the two projects and began work on getting a Middle East Conflicts Memorial placed in Trumbull County Veterans Memorial Park in downtown Warren, on the corner of West Market Street and Mahoning Avenue.
The project is nearing completion.
Ground was broken
Nov. 14 in order to set the foundation of the memorial before the ground froze. The granite base has been ordered, and the design is being finalized before being etched by Ventling Memorial of Champion.
The project is on schedule for final installation in the spring, and a formal public dedication is planned on Memorial Day, May 29.
The nation was galvanized by the terrorist attacks on U.S. soil when al-Qaida operatives flew two planes into the World Trade Center in New York City, and a third into the Pentagon in Arlington County, Va. A fourth plane headed toward Washington, D.C., crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pa., when passengers tried to overcome the hijackers.
The attacks killed 2,996 people, injured more than 6,000 others and caused at least $10 billion in property and infrastructure damage and $3 trillion in total costs.
It was the deadliest incident for firefighters and law enforcement officers in U.S. history, with 343 and 72 killed, respectively, it was reported.
“Our country has been fighting the global war on terrorism as long as I have been alive, but I think kids my age don’t reflect very often on the thousands of service members who have fought and died in Middle East conflicts,” Liam said. “More than 25 years have passed since America’s service members liberated Kuwait in 1991. Too often, we take our security and freedom for granted.
“The reason I took on this project is because, just as with past generations of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, these modern veterans and their families deserve a formal memorial to recognize their sacrifices,” he said.
The purpose of the project is to place the memorial to honor Trumbull County veterans of modern wars along with the park’s other monuments that pay tribute to the service of veterans of the Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam wars.
The Middle East Conflicts Memorial is the realization of a long-term desire of the Western Reserve Veterans Memorial Association to honor Trumbull County Veterans of modern wars, said Liam’s father, Kevin McGee of Columbus, a retired U.S. Army captain and assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 28.
Kevin McGee, a graduate of Howland High School who received his Eagle Scout badge through Troop 28, is part of the team helping Liam with his project.
Others include Troop 28 Scoutmaster Dr. Jeff Sutton; Jim Rapone of Champion, chairman of the Trumbull County Western Reserve Veterans Memorial Association; and Liam’s brother, Aidan, also a member of Troop 28.
Others of Liam’s family supporting his Eagle Scout project include his mother, Jennifer McGee of Vienna; grandparents, Joe and Sondra McGee of Howland, Dr. Thomas and Kay James of Vienna and Kenneth and Pat Wallat of Howland; and stepmother, Dara McGee.
Once completed, the black granite Middle East Conflicts Monument will include a pedestal stone and a stele stone that stand a combined 56 inches high and 48 inches wide.
The double-sided monument has white-etched inscriptions on each side with one side displaying the Battlefield Cross, also known as the Soldier Battle Cross or Battle Cross.
The Battlefield Cross, as described by the Army Field Manual, “serves as a field expedient symbolic replacement of a cross, or other marker appropriate to a deceased service members’s religion, on the battle field or the base camp.”
It is made up of the soldier’s rifle stuck into the ground or into the soldier’s boots, with helmet on top. Dog tags are sometimes placed on the rifle and the boots of the dead soldier can be placed next to the rifle. The purpose is to show honor and respect for the dead at the battle site.
Liam said he and his team went through a lot of ideas before settling on the combination of the ideas that “stuck from beginning to end.”
He said Herman Breuer, director of the Trumbull County Veterans Service Commission, provided a lot of guidance and impact.
Families are mentioned twice on the memorial to recognize their sacrifices, and the back side of the monument speaks to the current and future military and the recognition of the continuing state of the war on terrorism, Liam said.
About 50 percent of the $5,000 needed for the project has been raised, with support coming from local businesses and veterans organizations, including Warren Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1090.
Individuals or organizations that wish to make tax-deductible donations to the Middle East Conflicts Memorial can do so by sending a check to Western Reserve Veterans Memorial Association, in care of Middle East Conflicts Memorial Project, 4891 Smith-Steward Road, Vienna, OH 44473.
To donate online with a credit card via the memorial project’s Go Fund Me campaign page, go to www.gofundme.com/gulfwarsmemorial.
In order to raise awareness of the Middle East Conflicts Memorial, Liam is available upon request for prospective sponsors for onsite presentations at the memorial’s future location. Call Kevin McGee at 330-819-4403.