As an American flag, suspended between two Watertown City Fire Department trucks, waved on the hilltop overlooking the city, a group of Fort Drum and local community members, veterans and lawmakers gathered July 1 in Thompson Park to unveil a monument honoring the 10th Mountain Division.
The 20-foot granite structure, smooth at the base, rises to a craggy top carved to create the illusion of a mountaintop. Beneath the rock that surrounds the base of the monument lies a time capsule, buried last month and intended to be opened in 2035 in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the division’s reactivation at Fort Drum.
The monument features three bronze reliefs, each depicting a different era in 10th Mountain Division history, crafted by Susan Grant Raymond, who also created the Military Mountaineer and Fallen Warrior monuments in Fort Drum’s Memorial Park.
The first relief depicts the time period from the division’s activation at Camp Hale, Colo., in 1943 and its participation in the Italian Campaign during World War II. The second depicts the 10th Mountain Division’s participation in contingency operations from its reactivation in 1985 through 2001. The third relief represents the division’s involvement in operations in Afghanistan and Iraq from 2001 to present – a time period that includes nearly 40 brigade and division deployments.
The fourth face of the monument has been intentionally left blank, said Gilbert Pearsall, chairman of The North Country Honors the Mountain Committee, the group responsible for planning the monument and raising funds for its creation.
“We hope that a future generation will commemorate that milestone (50th) anniversary with a ceremony like this one, unveiling a fourth relief … and also unearth the time capsule that we planted there last month so that the next generation of North Country citizens can fully appreciate how much we … cherish our relationship with the 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum.”
Col. Donald Paquin, 10th Mountain Division Artillery commander, spoke about the meaning of the division’s motto, “Climb to Glory.”
“‘Climb to Glory’ honors the outstanding achievements of the 10th Mountain Division throughout our nation’s history, but it also acknowledges the continuing sacrifice and dedication of the Soldiers, Civilians and their Families who make the 10th Mountain Division what it is today.”
Paquin said that the monument was a wonderful tribute to “the climb,” but he said it was important to remember the community members without whose steadfast support our servicemen and women could not accomplish their mission.
“As Soldiers, we did not embark on this climb on our own,” he said. “Our Families at home were our strength, and we recognize that the strength of our Families were the communities that came together to support and care for them … over the last 30 years. This monument also serves as a symbol of our Watertown and surrounding neighbors that supported and cared for our Families, without which our service and mutual defense would not be possible.”
Retired Lt. Gen. James L. Campbell, a former 10th Mountain Division (LI) and Fort Drum commander who now serves as assistant to the Army chief of staff, said that the monument’s location within the city showcases the unique interdependent relationship between the post and the local community.
“This monument is a thank-you to the Soldiers, the Families and the civilian workforce from the people of the North Country,” Campbell said. “The fact that it is located here in Thompson Park, in Watertown, makes that thank-you even more sincere and more genuine.
“The extraordinary bond that exists between Fort Drum and northern New York is unequaled anywhere in our Army, and I speak from experience,” he continued.
As we look to the future, Campbell said that he has no doubt the division will continue to shape the history of our nation and our world.
“It is my belief that if the United States of America is involved anywhere in the world, militarily, and the stakes are high, the 10th Mountain Division will be in the mix,” he said. “In a world that only promises to become more complex and more dangerous, this fourth relief will, no doubt, capture additional acts of courage, determination and sacrifice that have become the signature trademarks of this division and installation.”