When U.S. Army veteran and Viterbo University student James Michael saw the Remembering Our Fallen memorial for the first time at Western Technical College this past July, he was particularly struck by one aspect of the photos of the service members who made the ultimate sacrifice.
“Looking into their eyes, it really hit me,” Michael said. “Every one of them said goodbye to their loved ones for the last time and never came back. I can’t imagine how painful that was for their families.”
Remembering Our Fallen is a national traveling memorial consisting of 34 Tribute Towers with the photos of more than 5,000 members of the military who perished during the War on Terror since Sept. 11, 2001.
Michael was so moved by the experience he made it his mission to give even more people the opportunity to view it. He met with Viterbo President Rick Trietley, also a veteran who served in Afghanistan, about hosting the memorial at the university. Michael felt that with the recent withdrawal of U.S. Armed Forces from Afghanistan and Veterans Day approaching, the timing seemed especially appropriate. Trietley quickly expressed his support.
Remembering Our Fallen will be on display in Viterbo University’s Assisi Courtyard Wednesday, Oct. 20, through Sunday, Oct. 24. An opening ceremony will be held at noon Oct. 20. The exhibit will close with a blessing at 5 p.m. Oct. 24. Everyone is invited to attend both events or view the memorial anytime during daylight hours.
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Michael, who will graduate from Viterbo in May with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree, served as a combat medic with the 1st Battalion 66th Armor Regiment in Afghanistan. He stressed the memorial is not about anyone’s personal feelings about the War on Terror, the Afghanistan withdrawal, or anything to do with politics.
“What I care about is bringing the community together to honor these brave soldiers, and hopefully provide some healing and closure to their loved ones,” Michael said. “It’s just the right thing to do. I want these families and our veterans to know how much they are respected and appreciated. No matter our opinions or background, as soldiers we answered the call.”
Unlike traditional brick-and-mortar type memorials, Remembering Our Fallen is designed to travel and includes both military and personal photos. It is the hope of the creators that the names of the fallen heroes will be spoken in remembrance and bring comfort to their family members.
“Viterbo University is privileged to honor all U.S. service members who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation during the Global War on Terror by hosting this incredible monument,” said Trietley. “This powerful and moving exhibition captures the pride, spirit and the human toll of warfare as told through the loving memories of families, loved ones, and friends. There is no better time to pause, remember and honor these amazing individuals as our community is currently engaged in offering safety, hospitality, and the hope of a better life to thousands of Afghan refugees at nearby Fort McCoy. Please join us to pay tribute to these heroes — we will never forget.”
Remembering Our Fallen has been displayed across the U.S. since it was unveiled at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., in 2017. For more information, visit www.RememberingOurFallen.org.
"I want these families and our veterans to know how much they are respected and appreciated. No matter our opinions or background, as soldiers we answered the call.”
James Michael, Viterbo University student and U.S. Army veteran