Morale: Bringing The Stone Back Home


June 3, 2010: It's common for American troops, since World War II, to erect memorials to fallen comrades during wars like Korea, Vietnam and the current ones. When all the troops come home, the memorials come with them. This happened in Vietnam, and at the end of the Cold War, when most U.S. bases in Europe were closed, and units that had been stationed there for decades, left for good. As troop strength in Korea shrinks, more of the memorials there are brought home.

Now that most of the 300 U.S. bases in Iraq are being closed, the memorials there are being returned. But some of them are massive. In one case, some soldiers carefully painted the names of 4,400 troops killed in Iraq, on 22 concrete blast barriers. Each of these weighs seven tons. Many smaller memorials were installed on these blast barriers, making the repatriation of Iraq war memorials a major engineering and transportation project. That's complicated because the concrete in these barriers tends to crumble and crack when moved (but holds up well to absorb explosion shock waves).  

Some of the more popular memorials were impromptu, as in concrete barriers at hospitals that attracted graffiti from soldiers passing through. Is that really a memorial? And is it worth the hassle to move those  heavy, bulky and fragile (when moved, at least) blast barriers? Some commanders are suggesting these be left behind. But given the likelihood that hostile Iraqis (Sunni Arab supporters of Saddam or pro-Iranian Shia) might deface them, other commanders have suggested that the memorials be destroyed. Either option is not likely to make Iraq war veterans, and the family and friends of those killed, happy. This could be a difficult situation.






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