MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. - The ancient Athenian leader Pericles offered a tribute to the fallen heroes of war saying, “not only are our soldiers commemorated by columns and inscriptions, but there dwells also an unwritten memorial of them, graven not just on stone but in the hearts of men.”
A ceremony was held at the Special Operations Memorial Nov. 10, celebrating Veterans Day. Hundreds of members of U.S. Special Operations Command attended the ceremony as nine new etched plaques were unveiled and added to the memorial walls.
The guest speaker at the ceremony was Air Force Maj. Gen. J. Marcus Hicks, chief of staff, U.S. Special Operations Command.
“Less than one percent of the American population serve in the military today and seven to eight percent of the population are veterans – that’s a pretty exclusive club,” Hicks said. “Since we are celebrating Veterans Day, it doesn’t make much sense to talk about ourselves. The service we render would not be possible without our family and friends. That seven or eight percent of veterans who served are supported five times that by our spouses, families and friends. We really owe them a big thanks especially on Veterans Day.”
Also joining the ceremony was Operation One Voice. Operation One Voice is a program designed by police officers, firefighters and community leaders from Duluth, Georgia, and they raise funds to help support the immediate needs of children and families of wounded and fallen Special Operations Forces. They formed a team of runners who started in Georgia and will end their run into Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida, Nov. 11.
The SOF memorial located at U.S. Special Operations Command Headquarters gives comrades and families a hallowed place to touch the etched names of the fallen, friends of SOF, and recognizes those who uphold the legacy of special operations. The memorial is a peaceful place to reflect on the sacrifices of Special Operations men and women.
A statue of a Special Operations warrior is the focal point of the memorial, with surrounding walls designed to accommodate engravings to memorialize past, present, and future special operations personnel and organizations.
The central, prominent wall holds the engraved names of those Special Operations personnel awarded the Medal of Honor and three Australian posthumous recipients of the Victoria Cross. The Victoria Cross is Australia’s Medal of Honor equivalent and the awards were earned while working with U.S. Special Forces in the Republic of Vietnam.
On either side of the Medal of Honor and Victoria Cross recipients are the Special Operations personnel killed in action or killed in training beginning with the Hostage Rescue attempt in Iran during Operation EAGLE CLAW in 1980.
“The eight service members killed during Desert One (Operation Eagle Claw) are inscribed first on the memorial because the operation is considered the genesis of U.S. Special Operations Command,” said Geoff Barker, president and chief executive officer of the Special Operations Memorial Foundation.
Along the outer rings contain the names of legacy special operations warriors dating back to World War II. Also, the outer rings have the names of friends of SOF and major contributors to the memorial.
The memorial also features the names of the founder of the Britain’s Special Air Service, CIA agent and first U.S. combat fatality in the war on terrorism, Montgnards from Vietnam and the only SOF casualty on 9/11 are all etched into the memorial.
SIDEBAR: The nine veterans who had plaques unveiled during the ceremony were:
Army Col. Harold Walker
Master Chief Petty Officer (SEAL) David L. Isom
*Army Capt. Thomas C. Tucker
Army Maj. Thomas G. Bostic
Army Maj. Kenneth Miller
*Air Force Staff Sgt. Melissa Scott
Marine Corps Master Sgt. Joseph Lurz
Army Master Sgt. Kevin Dorsh
*Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Wayne Rutland
Editor’s note: The memorial is located at MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa, Florida, in front of U.S. Special Operations Command. It is open 365 days a year. To visit the SOF Memorial online go to www.specialoperationsmemorial.org/.