The highly anticipated memorial to our fallen comrades is a reality. The formal dedication of the monument and the memorial plaza took place in a moving ceremony held on November 12, 2009 - the day after Veteran's Day -- in the 506th regimental area at Fort Campbell, KY. An audience of hundreds was present for the ceremony, with entertainment provided by a string ensemble, bagpipes and an army honor guard.
The memorial honors soldiers of the regiment killed in action in four wars. The ceremony involved both current and veteran leadership from the regiment and the families and friends of the honored soldiers. 4th Brigade Combat Team's commanding officer, COL Sean Jenkins, presided over the dedication. 506th Association President Don Thies and Active Duty Liaison Fred May laid a wreath and plaque from the Association in place at the monument.
The dramatic granite monument is the first on American soil to honor the men and women of the historic regiment. The memorial itself is composed of a central granite cenotaph on a broad plaza, flanked by six parachute-shaped monuments. These monuments will ultimately include the names of all of the 506th war dead. It is being paid for completely by contributions from veterans, active duty soldiers, families and friends of former soldiers and other private citizens, along with in-kind contributions. Reaching the first milestone in the ambitious project -- fundraising for erection of the slabs and chiseling of the names of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan -- was celebrated at the November dedication. It is important to note that fundraising for the balance of the project, to cover engraving of the names of casualties from World War II and Vietnam, is still underway.
Two major in-kind contributions did much to advance the memorial. First, Nashville contractor Glenn Goodwin contributed the materials and labor for the expansive memorial plaza and for the foundations for the monuments. The center of the dramatic plaza contains a black spade, symbol of the regiment since World War II.
The crowning touch came when one of America's foremost wildlife sculptors, Eugene Morelli, contributed a dramatic sculpture of a large soaring American eagle to grace the entrance to the memorial. It beautifully complements the memorial plaza itself and welcomes visitors to the site. Mr. Morelli's sculpture, entitled "Majesty," is a magnificent bronze statue of an eagle in full flight. The eagle is both the emblem and mascot of the 101st Airborne Division and a symbol of the spirit and resolution of America's soldiers. The statue, with a nearly five-foot wingspan, is mounted on a plinth in the memorial plaza.
The Morellis were moved to make this contribution (valued at $20,000) in memory of Ms. Morelli's nephew. Matthew Zygmunt was a soldier in the 4th BCT, 506th Infantry Regiment. He fought with the Currahees in Iraq in 2005-2006, returning safely only to die in an automobile accident in August 2009 as he prepared to enter college. "Matthew was very proud of his service with the 506th, and treasured his association with that organization," said Morelli in an interview. "Our families have a strong military tradition, and Joan and I felt this sculpture was an appropriate and meaningful way to honor his memory."
The 506th Airborne Infantry Regiment Association (Airmobile-Air Assault) is acting on behalf of the regiment to collect contributions in support of the memorial. We are hoping that the veterans and loved ones of veterans of World War II and Vietnam will pledge the money needed to record for posterity the names of all the Currahees who were killed in action.
All of the money raised by the Association for this purpose is spent on the memorial. People or organizations wishing to contribute to the completion of this monument can do so online with PayPal on the website, or via US Mail.
The 506th Airborne Infantry Association (Airmobile-Air Assault) is a charitable War Veterans Organization under IRS section 501(c)(19), and contributions are fully tax deductible.
For further information, contact any of these members of the Board of Directors of the Association:
Fred May, Active Duty Liaison
John Lally, Newsletter Editor