Throughout the country there are many memorials that pay homage to veterans of World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam. A little less common are memorials for veterans that served in more recent conflicts to fight the war against terrorism. Cheryl Whitfield, who founded the National Memorial Ladies volunteer military funeral service in 2008, decided to rectify this oversight. In 2010, she led a campaign to have a Houston-area memorial built to honor those that lost their lives serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn, and Operation Enduring Freedom. In 2012, her dream came true when the Fallen Warriors Memorial was officially dedicated in Cy Champ Park.
"[It] started with a desire to honor the families of the fallen," she said. "To honor the sacrifices of their son, daughter, husband, father, brother. Every parent I spoke all said, 'I don't want my child forgotten.' It was their biggest fear."
After approaching Cy Champ Park President Ron Walkoviak, who secured the board's approval to place the memorial there, Whitfield and other women from her National Memorial Ladies group asked the local community for donations. On October 6th, 2012, the memorial was officially dedicated.
It's a peaceful circular memorial adjacent to the park's walking path, flanked by walls engraved with the names of fallen veterans from the Iraqi conflicts. Several benches provide a place to relax and reflect, and flowers are planted in between several plaques surrounding the memorial. Since its official opening it's been the site for many events on Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Independence Day, and other holidays.
"We have had several events," Whitfield said. "The last one that we have yearly is the Silent Roll Call, where each name on the walls, of the Texas fallen is called out. This is held the first weekend of October. Many military promotions take place there also. We have ceremonies for the families of the fallen at the Memorial."
The memorial may be visited at 14500 Cutten Road and is open every day with parking available close by. At night, the memorial, and the walkway leading to it, are illuminated. The website also contains a database of every name engraved on the walls, along with the solder's rank and operation. Donations are still being collected through the website and go towards the memorial's maintenance which includes adding new names to the walls. Right now donations are being collected to honor two service dogs including one that lost his handler in Afghanistan.
The monument's mission is to keep the memories alive for each veteran along with his or her family and loved ones, ensuring that their sacrifices will not be forgotten.
"This memorial was built for the memory of our Iraq/Afghanistan Texas fallen," Whitfield said. "To honor, remember, and to educate."
The foundation is currently soliciting donations to help ex-military/service dogs. More information can be found, and donations can be made, online at www.fallenwarriorstexas.org.