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Boots display honors fallen

About 7,600 boots stand tall in perfectly straight rows blanketed across the front lawn of 101st Airborne Division Headquarters at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, as a visual representation of the service members lost post-Sept. 11, 2001.

“Our flag does not fly because the wind moves it. It flies with the last breath of each soldier who died protecting it.”

— Author unknown

Quietness, even the sound of traffic, was but distant and faint, muffled by the breeze flowing over the thousands of sentinels — infantry boots — awaiting for another call to battle that they had once answered.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, they stand side by side at Fort Campbell Army Base in Kentucky in countless rows by the thousands — now more than 7,600. Each boot represents a fallen U.S. serviceperson with their name, date and location of his or her passing etched by each boot. Placed on each sentinel stands a small American flag.

In many of the boots are letters left from loved ones. They speak of heartfelt times past, ranging from eternal love to the deepest valleys of sorrow and loss, and unfulfilled dreams. These dreams range from never seeing their child grow up and be married, watching their child graduate from high school and college, participating in school programs and attending their athletic events.

The Boots on the Ground display is hosted by Survivor Outreach Services-Army Community Service.

Others contain memorabilia, symbolizing a past enjoyed experience, shared with family and friends. Some contain items, such as class and wedding rings, small hand-held games, photos, medals and awards, and receipts from attended events. During this time, the American flags were slowly waving in the breeze, as if to say a plea, “Never, never forget our sacrifices, as we did it for you and our nation’s continued way of life.”

In conclusion, thank God for the sacrifices of all of our fallen U.S service personnel — those who have been injured, and those who have been or are currently serving to protect our country. Please keep all of them in your thoughts and prayers.

In memory of Dustin Paul Napier, killed in action on Jan. 8, 2012, in Qalat, Zabul province, Afghanistan.

“America, without her soldiers, would be like God without his angels.”

— Claudia Pemberton

Some boots in the display have been specially decorated with flowers, photos and other trinkets by loved ones.

Daniel J. Paul is a retired school administrator. His articles focus on education, old-fashioned family values, relationships, and other topics. Go to his website at meaningfuldifferences.net.

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