JBLM memorials to SF, Rangers and more

JBLM troops served vital role during OEF missions

By DUANE DENFELD AND DONNA TURNIPSEED/Joint Base Lewis-McChord Cultural Resources Program on July 28, 2017

Joint Base Lewis McChord provided essential troops for the Operation Enduring Freedom combat duties in Afghanistan. In less than a month after the horrific Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the United States went on the offensive against al-Qaeda.

In October 2001, Special Operations and air power began targeting the Taliban and al-Qaeda. These operations would become known as Operation Enduring Freedom.

It became a campaign unlike any other in American history fought as unconventional war. Stryker brigade combat teams were deployed and their fallen are remembered at monuments in Memorial Park. In fact, the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division’s “Arrowhead” monument lists 23 fallen Soldiers from OEF operations. The brigade is now the 1st Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division.

Many JBLM units served in OEF and contributed to defending freedom. On the 864th Headquarters building, a plaque honors three Soldiers killed in action during Task Force Pacemaker in August 2007. In order to protect the integrity of a number of missions, several deployments went without public announcements but were critical to overall mission successes: these included the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Battalions, 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne), and 2nd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment.

Other JBLM monuments recall Special Forces and Ranger sacrifices for missions dating from 2001 through 2016. The Special Forces monument, “In Honor of Our Fallen Teammates,” recognizes the sacrifices made by the 1st SFG since the terrorist attacks on 9-11. A polished, black granite wall carries the names of 40 fallen comrades from operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Philippines.

Among the names is Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Chapman, the first recorded casualty in the Afghanistan War. Chapman, from Puyallup, had served most of his 12 years in the Army on JBLM.

On Jan. 4, 2002, when leaving a meeting with tribal leaders to enlist their assistance in locating al-Qaeda members he and a CIA officer came under intense automatic weapons fire. The CIA officer was wounded and Chapman killed.

The street loop at the monument is named in his honor. At South Hill Park in Puyallup, a trail is named in his honor as well as a monument.

The JBLM Special Forces monument helps family members heal and preserves the Special Forces family at JBLM.

The 2nd Ranger Battalion Memorial Park remembers fallen heroes and pays tribute to the men and families of that battalion. Constructed of granite and stone, it carries inscriptions of the names of Rangers who died in combat and training.

Located at the headquarters building, the memorial is landscaped into a reflective setting to remind us of the Ranger commitment and making the ultimate sacrifice. It was dedicated Nov. 7, 2012. The names of the fallen are inscribed on a granite obelisk.

There are also living memorials, such as the annual April “Pat’s Run,” in honor of Spc. Pat Tillman. The event is a 4.2-mile run/walk (recalling his NFL jersey number 42) which supports veteran’s and spouses. Pat’s Run honors Tillman, who was killed in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004.

He is well known as the former NFL football star who put America ahead of his playing career. Although the main event is in Tempe, Ariz., other cities including Seattle and Tacoma host an honor run as well. Ultimately, the organization has awarded more than $14 million in scholarships. On JBLM, in the Ranger compound is a building commemorates his sacrifice to our nation’s freedom.

One of the older monuments on JBLM to commemorate our fallen Soldiers and their sacrifices is “Iron Mike” a Soldier statue dedicated in 1964. Located just beyond Liberty Gate on 41st Division Road, this monument pays homage to all Special Forces and infantrymen who have come through JBLM. Two Soldiers stationed at JBLM designed the statue.

All of these JBLM memorials forever remember individual and unit sacrifices made to guarantee our freedom.