NORFOLK, VA - Two new letters have been added to the Armed Forces Memorial to commemorate the soldiers lost who served in Iraq and in Afghanistan. The memorial attempts to describe the emotional history of the individuals who fought and died in service to this country by using their own words. Over the course of building the memorial the artists searched for voices to convey diverse emotional experiences of war.
Army Staff Sergeant Darrell Ray Griffin Jr., 34, of Alhambra, California, went on active duty in 2001. During his first combat tour in Iraq he won a Bronze Star with V for valor for saving the lives of three American and two Iraqi soldiers after an IED attack. He wrote: It was...after an entire year of being deployed and well into the next deployment that I realized something. We burst into homes, frighten the hell out of families, and destroy their homes looking for an elusive enemy.... Griffin died during his second combat tour, shot by a sniper on March 21, 2007.
First Lieutenant Tamara Long Archuleta, 23, of Los Lunas, New Mexico, co-pilot, was killed in a helicopter crash on her way to rescue Afghani children, March 23, 2003, a few weeks before she was scheduled to return home. Her son, Donnie, turned 4 years old the day after her funeral. A letter to her parents says, in part: I have a really cute bear for Donnie that is in desert camouflage...and a T-shirt that says, ’’My Mom is a Soldier in Afghanistan.’’ I hope he likes them....I love you....
Richard and Cindy Long say, “We are very glad to have our daughter’s letter home as part of the Armed Forces Memorial. Thank you for keeping her memory and her sacrifice in people’s hearts and minds….. we appreciate you honoring Tammy in this way along with all those who gave all. God Bless You.”
Architect Jim Cutler and artist Maggie Smith were commissioned in 1998 to create the Armed Forces Memorial. The memorial is connected to Town Point Park by two bridges and sits in a contemplative place on the waterfront. It originally contained twenty inscriptions from letters written home by service people who lost their lives in war. Their words are cast in thin sheets of bronze and scattered across the ground as if blown by the wind.
Maggie Smith and Jim Cutler say, “In remembering the servicepeople who lost their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq, we were able to highlight two things that were previously unrepresented in the memorial: the first, the loss of mothers in combat who left young children; and the second, a soldier’s view of the toll that war takes on civilians. We are honored to be able to add these two voices to the memorial.”