Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I&M Canal NHC at 30: Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial

The Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor was created thirty years ago and the canal was completed in 1848. But the newest site of renown along the corridor is also celebrating an anniversary. In 2004 the first granite panel honoring the fallen soldiers and sailors from the Middle East wars since 1979 was placed at Riverfront Plaza in Marseilles, the Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial.

The memorial is a difficult photographic subject--particularly on a cloudless day with the sun at the south.
The ray of light is an accidental optical effect, but one that is appropriate for this hallowed place.

Some lighting trickery is in this photograph too.

The Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial is unique in at least two ways. It's the first memorial in American history to honor those men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice to our nation by name while the conflict was still ongoing. And it's America's only monument to all of the fallen in our wars in the Middle East.

No government funds go to the memorial. Donations and volunteer labor keep it going. If government was involved, I'm certain such a monument would still be in the planning phase.

The idea for the memorial developed from the annual Illinois Motorcycle Freedom Run. When the biker rally occurs, the population of Marseilles swells from 5,000 to 50,000.

To the south of the memorial are rapids of the Illinois River. On the opposite bank of the river lies Illini State Park.

The names of over 5,000 men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for America are carved into the several granite plaques at the memorial. A complete listing of those brave warriors can be found here.

The center granite marker reads, "A tribute to the heroic servicemen and servicewomen who sacrificed their lives in the Middle East conflicts keeping America free. In recognition to all who served and lost their lives for the freedom of our country whose names are not listed on this wall. We owe you a debt of gratitude. You will never be forgotten. Thank you."

As with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, etching paper is available for those who want to preserve a copy of a name on the wall.

There were a few individual memorials at the base of the plaques, such as this one to Captain Joshua Steele, who perished on June 17, 2007.

The Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial is only five miles south of Interstate 80. If driving down this major cross-country thoroughfare, I urge you to visit and pay your respects to these brave men and women.

To donate to the Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial, click here.

Next: Ottawa

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