Fort Drum community members gathered Tuesday in Memorial Park to witness the uncovering of a panoramic monument that was dedicated to past, present and future warriors of the 10th Mountain Division (LI).
The unveiling of the bronze-cast Fallen Warrior Monument marked an extraordinary moment in Fort Drum history. Co-located with the iconic Military Mountaineers Monument in front of division headquarters, the new monument fills out Memorial Park and reminds observers of the division’s immeasurable sacrifices.
“Today, we celebrate the commitment of so many, marking it permanently on this often-traveled ground with a monument that will endure like the strength of the people who have served and who continue to serve,” said Col. Gary A. Rosenberg, Fort Drum garrison commander.
The two-part monument is a distinctive and multifaceted display that tells a story of honor, camaraderie and humanity while depicting two themes – honoring the fallen and hope for the future.
The larger more centralized component of the monument honors the fallen with a scene of seven Soldiers grieving for a fallen comrade in front of a battlefield cross, which consists of a rifle, dog tags, helmet and boots.
Used as a common “frontline memorial,” the battlefield cross offers a moment in the “seemingly endless chaos of war” for Soldiers to stand together and honor their fallen comrades, Rosenberg said.
“(This) captures one of the most important moments of solidarity a Soldier will ever experience – a solemn moment of shoulder-to-shoulder remembrance and understanding,” he said.
The monument’s second element presents two Soldiers in full battle gear moving out on patrol. Hope for the future is represented by one of the Soldiers turning back and reaching for the outstretched arm of a child.
Rosenberg said the child in the scene represents the connection that Soldiers have and the humanity they share with the people they are sent to protect.
“As those who have been to war can tell you, this connection is what leads to lasting peace,” he said. “It’s this connection that underlies our Soldiers’ devotion to their mission.”
For the late Nathan E. Morrell, a driving force behind the Fallen Warrior Monument project, it was the innocence that a child interjected in the scene that made the concept most important to him, the colonel added.
“Those who knew Nate well know that his favorite element of the monument is the depiction of the two Soldiers on patrol,” Rosenberg said. “I wish he could be here to see the unveiling today.”
A larger-than-life division veteran of World War II and the Korean War, Morrell died in March after a brief hospitalization in Watertown.
Serving for years as National Association of the 10th Mountain Division president and later chairman of the board, Morrell was known as a strong and compelling voice for Soldiers, Family Members and an enduring pet project — the Fallen Warrior Monument.
Morrell’s daughter, Jennifer, drove from New Hampshire to attend Tuesday’s ceremony. She said her father would have been elated to see the completed monument.
“It would have meant everything to him,” she said. “He really pushed for it hard.”
Colorado-based Susan Grant Raymond, the artist commissioned to sculpt the Fallen Warrior Monument, said she also wished the man behind the vision were present.
“Nate Morrell was instrumental,” Raymond said. “It’s kind of hard to be here without him. I owe a great debt to him.”
Raymond, who also sculpted the Military Mountaineers Monument more than 20 years ago, had become a close friend of Morrell’s through the years, especially after 9/11, when he contacted her to share some of his ideas for a new monument.
Since 2005, Morrell – through sheer willpower – kept the concept for the Fallen Warrior Monument on the radar of multiple command groups at Fort Drum.
Jeff Fox, an illustrator at the Signs and Graphics Shop on post, described the grandfather-like storyteller as someone who kept his ear to the ground at Fort Drum, which was why so many Soldiers on the installation had so much respect for him.
“And that’s what he cared most about,” Fox said. “It just meant the world to him that this monument would go up to support them.”
During the ceremony, Rosenberg also took time to praise Fort Drum's Civilian workforce for making the memorial possible through funds it received two years ago when it won the Army Communities of Excellence silver award.
The garrison commander said Civilians working on post take their responsibilities very seriously.
They have not only supported Soldiers and Families at every turn, he noted, but they also have mourned alongside the comrades and loved ones of hundreds of fallen Soldiers during the past 12 years of war.
“‘The heart can think of no devotion greater than being shore to ocean,’” Rosenberg said, quoting American poet Robert Frost. “The Civilian workforce here at Fort Drum is like that shore, and the constant deployment and redeployment of the 10th Mountain Division is like the constant ebb and flow of the ocean.
“This has been particularly true over the last 12 years of war, where there has been no break for our Soldiers, no break for their Families, and no break for our Civilians.”
After members of the garrison workforce helped unveil the monument, attendees were invited to come forward and take pictures.
Raymond later explained several inconspicuous markings on the new monument. One of them, an Arabic symbol for peace on the child’s sandal, complements the peace symbol embedded in the barrel of a downward pointed rifle held by a Soldier on the Military Mountaineers Monument.
Another addition, but completely concealed, is a small bronze heart welded inside one of the Soldiers and inscribed, “A thank you to Nate,” she said.