Most of the time, wars end on specific dates. Then, many years later, a memorial may be built to honor those who fought in it. World War II, which ended in 1945, didn’t have a national memorial until 57 years later. How long might it take for a memorial to be built to honor those who have fought and died in our current War on Terror, which has no end in sight?
Tom Flynn, the motive force behind the creation of the Avenue of 444 Flags, didn’t want to wait to find out. In the beginning of 2005, he hired IKM, an architectural firm based in Pittsburgh, to design a memorial that could list the names of those American military men and women killed in this ongoing war. It not only had to be visually impressive, but also capable of seamless expansion to continuously make room for the names of new casualties.
In the initial stage of construction, the Wesex Corporation of West Middlesex, PA, built a circular concrete pad around a fountain with six towering panels. The lower two feet of each is stainless steel, above which are five dark glass panels, 2 feet high by 4 feet wide. On these panels are etched the names of those killed in action.
Completed within five months of the groundbreaking, the Memorial was dedicated on May 30, 2005, by Major General Karol A. Kennedy. Her words perfectly capture the idea behind the Memorial:
“I am truly honored to be here, to commemorate the service and sacrifice of all of our soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, and coastguardsmen who paid the ultimate price in service to our nation. It is to me representative of what made and what will keep this country the greatest nation on earth. I ask that you carry this day the message of this service: their sacrifice, so that we do not forget, so that generations to come do not forget, never forget the price of freedom.” (see video)
The first panel begins with the names of Col. Paul R. Shaffer, Jr., and Lt. Col. Jack H. Turner, who were assassinated in Tehran, Iran, on May 21, 1975. Two lines below are the names of the eight servicemen killed on April 25, 1980, in the attempt to rescue the 53 Americans being held captive during the Iranian Hostage Crisis.
The second monument begins with Air Force Master Sgt. Evander E. Andrews, the first serviceman killed in Afghanistan, on Oct. 10, 2001. Eight lines below are Marine Maj. Jay T. Aubin and his helicopter crew, the first servicemen killed in Iraq, on March 21, 2003.
With the addition of six more panels, the Memorial now has 12 panels in an inner circle, with room for a dozen more in an outer circle. There are already more than 7,000 names on the panels, including those of about 80 women, all in chronological order of death. New names are added as soon as possible after another American service man or woman is killed.
On Veterans Day, November 11, 2005, the area within the circle of flags surrounding the War on Terror Veterans Memorial became a Veterans Cremation Garden with the interment of the remains of nine veterans. The area now serves as a one of the most beautiful and patriotic locations for the interment of all honorably discharged veterans and their families. (see video)