Associated Press, 5-16-2008, Kevin Maurer
Fort Bragg - When the Army's 82nd Airborne Division dedicated a memorial to paratroopers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, organizers thought three sides of a wide granite column would be plenty of space to engrave the names of the fallen.
Three years later, there is no more room. The last name on the memorial belongs to Sgt. Clayton Dunn, who was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in May 2007.
To accommodate the rising number of casualties, military officials have been forced to expand the memorial by adding a granite wall. The wall now has 50 names - each a grim reminder that a 13-ton granite tower vastly underestimated how much space it would take to honor the fallen.
"We can put on as many as we need to now," said retired Command Sgt. Maj. Roger Vickers, who served for 14 years in the 82nd. "The hope is we don't ever have to put another name on it."
The U.S. has lost more than 4,000 service members in Iraq and 800 in Afghanistan since the September 11, 2001, attacks. The 82nd lost 62 soldiers in 2007, more than in any other year since 2001. Three incidents in Iraq last year each claimed the lives of seven or more 82nd paratroopers.
The 82nd isn't the only division squeezed for memorial space. A memorial at Fort Hood in Texas honoring fallen soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division - which lost 174 soldiers between the end of 2006 and 2008 as several of its brigades served in Iraq - is filling up, said Denis Webster, executive director of the 1st Cavalry Division Association. The names of future soldiers who die in service will have to be engraved on the back side, Webster said.
The 82nd's memorial stands behind the division museum at Fort Bragg, and displays the words, "In memory of the Paratroopers who gave their lives in support of the Global War on Terrorism." Last year, some of the 82nd's retired sergeants majors and officers raised money to build the wall behind the column once it became clear it would soon be out of room.
The 82nd's expanded memorial will be formally unveiled later this month during the division's "All American Week," an observance that traditionally occurs the week before Memorial Day. Hundreds of veterans from the 82nd are expected to visit Fort Bragg for the event.
The 82nd's 1st Brigade is still deployed to southern Iraq and its 3rd Brigade is training to return to Iraq in the fall.
The constant deployments have made the memorial column and wall hallowed ground for the division's paratroopers and their families. Sgt. 1st Class Rick Hinkle, who has friends listed on the memorial, said every paratrooper serving in the division knows someone whose name is listed on the wall or column.