Monument to Honor 101st Airborne Division Soldiers
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 24, 2004 A new monument under construction at Fort Campbell, Ky., will honor soldiers who have served in the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) throughout its history, including those who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq in support of the war on terror.
Retired Master Sgt. Billy Colwell, left, oversees construction of the new 101st Airborne Division monument at Fort Campbell, Ky. Photo by Donna Miles
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The monument, directly in front of the division headquarters building, is a large, jet-black granite obelisk with panels that depict the division's storied history: in World War II, the Vietnam conflict, Operation Desert Storm and recent operations including Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
Unlike traditional monuments, however, the obelisk is inverted, with the wider base toward the top. "That's because the unit has always been and will always be very different bold," said retired 1st Sgt. Billy Colwell, the monument's designer and key fundraiser as chairman of the 101st Airborne Division Association's monument committee. "We used the obverse obelisk as a symbol of boldness and departing from convention."
Etchings with 23-karat gold inlay on all four panels recall challenges posed by the division's first commander, Maj. Gen. William C. Lee, who urged the first Screaming Eagle troops during World War II to train hard, be bold and be aggressive in preparation for their "rendezvous with destiny."
The latest addition to the monument, to be unveiled during the division's "Week of the Eagles" celebration in June, will be engravings depicting the 101st's contributions to the war on terror in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The monument design incorporates an eternal flame atop the obelisk a symbol, Colwell said, of the division's readiness for duty 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
So far, all costs of the monument have been funded through the 101st Airborne Division Association and donations from the local communities and friends of the division. Now the association is selling 2,400 pavers that will surround the monument's base to defray costs of completing the monument.
Each paver symbolically being sold for $101 will be engraved with the name of a person or organization. Information about purchasing pavers is available on the 101st Airborne Division Association's Web site. Nineteen pavers will bear the names of Medal of Honor recipients from the division two from World War II and 17 from Vietnam.
Once additional funds are raised, Colwell said the monument will include life- size bronze statues of four "Screaming Eagle" soldiers wearing the uniforms and carrying the weaponry of various periods in the division's history.
Colwell admitted it's "an awesome task to make a monument to a division," especially one with such a proud heritage as the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), he added.
"This unit is different. It's the only air assault division in the world," Colwell said. "There's a pride in this unit that very few units have. And our dream is to have a monument that reflects that."