Memorial honors post 9/11 veterans

The Living Wall of Honor celebrates post 9/11 veterans. (Courtesy Amy McWethy)

WASHINGTON — On Sunday, veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars saw a unique memorial dedicated to them: a “Living Wall of Honor” for post-9/11 veterans.

Sunday was “Spirit of 45 Day,” which celebrates the end of World War II and a spirit of national unity, shared sacrifice and service. Volunteers turned out Sunday to help construct the memorial.

“This is the first living memorial for post-9/11 generation veterans. And it’s made up of over a thousand flowers, petunias and marigolds,” says Kristina Kaufmann, executive director of the Code of Support Foundation.

She says the organization is dedicated to creating awareness and bridging the civilian-military divide. And she says they’re responsible for making this memorial happen.

“It’s a little emotional. It’s going to be a little emotional planting a flower up there,” says Mark Reed.

Reed and his wife, Mary, lost their 23-year-old son, Jeffrey, on March 3, 2009, in Iraq, just weeks before he was to come home. It was their son’s second deployment.

But Reed, from Richmond, was proud to be at the event creating the memorial.

“We’re just so thrilled to be here and very honored to represent Jeffrey.”

Volunteers were planting more than a thousand flowers in the memorial which stands 8 feet high, 16 feet wide and 2 feet deep. Across the front in big white letters it reads: “Welcome Home Post 9-11 Veterans.”

“It’s pretty overwhelming,” says Theresa Mills, who lost her son to the war in Afghanistan in June 2012. She’s both a Gold Star mother and a Blue Star mother. She has another son who is serving in the Marines and joined after learning that his brother was killed.

Mills says she’s here to honor her fallen son, Eugene: “What a great honor that is.”

Mills was encouraged by the number of people who turned out as volunteers for help construct the memorial. And she was especially happy to see a group of middle school-age kids donating their time for the cause.

She says, “I think it’s so important to get the message out there that freedom is not free. And this is a great testament to that. They’re here doing a community service but they’re still learning about our veterans. I’m glad to see the turnout.”

As she began to describe the memorial she stopped, saying, “It’s pretty overwhelming. Matter of fact, just being in this location, my dad served in World War II, and when they sent out the invitation I said I got to go, I got to be there. And they’re going to move this (the living memorial) to Arlington Cemetery, where my son is buried.”

The Living Wall of Honor memorial will be moved to the Women in Military Service memorial at Arlington and will be there through Sept. 11.

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