KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Nearly eight-thousand American military members have given their lives during the war on terrorism. Now, a group of military veterans is making plans for a permanent memorial and museum in Kansas City. The American Fallen Warrior Memorial brought a traveling exhibit to Kansas City, Kansas during race weekend to set the stage for something more lasting.
The banners lined with photos of America's fallen flapped in the wind and withstood morning showers, faces of men and women so committed to the cause of freedom they gave their lives protecting it. "How can you not look at them and see those faces and eyes? They just draw you in," says Noala Fritz. One of the faces on the banners is Noala's first-born son Jacob. A farm boy from Nebraska, executed after he was taken as a prisoner of war. Noala has two other sons in the military. She travels the country with the "Remembering Our Fallen" exhibit. "I had a young man that came up to me and found this best friend from Texas, it was so hard to see him. There was another soldier here that had to look up 17 names," said Noala.
Putting a face to the names of the fallen is what Gold Star Mom Debbie Austin lives for. In her son Shane's death, she found his strength to "Rock on"...which was one of his favorite sayings. Debbie says, "I think one of the biggest fears of any of the Gold Star families is that our loved ones will be forgotten."
Now there is hope for a more permanent memorial. The American Fallen Warrior Memorial Foundation wants to build an interactive museum, so stories of the soldiers who loved basketball and fishing and family will live on. Jack Rush is the Executive Director for the project. "It will be educational. Really based on technology to simulate the war conditions that the soldiers and sailors and airmen would find themselves in."
Preliminary designs would include an outdoor space in the shape of a gold star, set in a wooded area with a giant American Flag at the entrance. It would include a high-tech museum with artifacts from the ongoing conflicts, and a place for families and military veterans to connect and heal.
"These are our brothers and sisters that go to war on behalf of our country to represent our ideals," says Rush. And they feel its important to build the museum while their loved ones are still alive to see it. Gold Star mom Debbie Austin agrees. "As long as we are alive, their legacy will continue, but when we are long gone, we want to make sure they are a permanent part of history."
Organizers are hoping to build in Kansas City because its in the center of the country and hope to have it completed by 2024. If you would like to find out more, you can go to AFWMF.org.