Salute the Fallen Memorial Dedication

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Michael Matkin
  • 161 ARW Public Affairs
The Arizona World War II memorial, "Salute the Fallen", was dedicated during a ceremony Dec. 7, 2013 at Wesley Bolin Memorial Park here.

The memorial is a tribute to the fallen service members of World War II, which presents historic gun barrels from the USS Arizona and the USS Missouri, representing 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.

The concept of the memorial was envisaged by Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett and the Salute the Fallen Committee. Construction of the memorial unofficially began when the gun barrels left Virginia in April of 2012, after sitting dormant for more than 50 years and officially began during a ground breaking ceremony Dec. 7 2012.

As the barrels were being restored, the project came to a standstill because of the extensive corrosion caused by 50 years of exposure to the elements. There were also thousands of pounds of hardware and supporting brackets attached to the gun barrels that needed to be removed. It was at this point that Ken Bennett, Arizona Secretary of State, contacted the 161st Air Refueling Wing, Phoenix for assistance in removing the corrosion, hardware and supporting brackets.

More than 50 service members from the 161 ARW volunteered their personal time and put forth extensive labor into the barrels restoration, said Master Sgt. Nathan Kesler, 161st MXG guidance and control shop supervisor who helped organize the 161 ARW's involvement in the memorial.

He said service members helped in removing thousands of pounds of hardware and brackets from the gun barrels and prepared and painted them.

Lt. Col. Mitchell Culp, 161st Maintenance Squadron commander, said working on projects like this are great training opportunities and help service members learn to think out-of-the-box.

"When we were first approached with this project there were a lot of obstacles that need to be overcome, such as the corrosion on the barrels; however, we were able to use the skill sets of the service members to overcome them to clean-up the barrels," said Col. Culp.

Working on the memorial brought training opportunities to the 161 ARW, but it was also meaningful to servicemembers in other ways, said Sergeant Kesler.

"I'm glad that as a service member, I had the opportunity to be a part the memorial's construction and making history here at the State Capital," said Sergeant Kesler. "Veterans and Arizonan's will both be rewarded with this Memorial. It is a monument put in place for remembrance of who we are, where we all come from and how we got here. Being a part of the memorial is such a small contribution to what we need to do to recognize and honor everyone lost through foreign and domestic turmoil."

Col. Culp agreed, "As members of the National Guard we are supposed to be doing things for community and Nation and working on this memorial embodies that."