After years of waiting and paperwork, ground was broken in a ceremony Dec. 7, 2012, for the "Guns to Salute the Fallen" World War II Memorial at Wesley Bolin Memorial Park here.
As a tribute to the fallen servicemembers of World War II, Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett and the Salute the Fallen Committee developed a concept that presents historic gun barrels from the USS Arizona
and the USS Missouri
as a representation of the beginning and end of World War II. Between the barrels, a steel structure in the shape of the USS Arizona's
hull will display the names of Arizona's servicemen and women who died during World War II.
After sitting dormant for more than 50 years in Virginia, transportation was secured to relocate the gun barrels to Arizona in late April this year.
After their arrival, Secretary Bennett reached out to the 161st Air Refueling Wing for assistance in refurbishing the barrels for their final resting place at the World War II Memorial near the State Capitol.
"Many of the 161st Maintenance Group staff, after several trips to downtown Phoenix, assessed the condition of the two barrels and worked directly with the Secretary of State on a game plan to being our efforts in prepping the badly corroded barrels," said Master Sgt. Nathan Kesler, 161st MXG guidance and control shop supervisor. "On June 5, several volunteers from the maintenance group took large wrenches, breaker bars, torches and hammers and began the removal of the supporting brackets around the USS Missouri
According to Kesler, at least six to seven hours of extensive labor was put forth in removing thousands of pounds of hardware and brackets. Over the next few months, several officers and maintenance personnel put in more than 60 hours in the planning and coordination of scraping and preparing the barrels for sealant and paint.
"The 161st Maintenance Group looks forward to completing this project by working with the state representatives and local community supporters to present a memorable World War II Memorial 'Guns to Salute the Fallen' on the first anniversary after the ground breaking, Dec. 7, 2013," Kesler said.
The groundbreaking ceremony took place immediately after the Pearl Harbor Day Remembrance Ceremony. The 161st ARW commander, Col. Gary D. Brewer Jr., joined Secretary Bennett and others involved in the project with commemorative shovels to simulate the beginning of the construction phase of the project.
"This is an exciting project to be involved in," Kesler said, "not only for what these two guns represent and the history that they carry with them, but how we can bring this memorial as an educational community project. Most people don't know or understand what they are or what they represent. This is one way to not only educate ourselves with a hands-on experience, but it will be part of Arizona history to be told, every year, and we were a part of it."
To read more about the project, visit the Salute to the Fallen Web site