FALL RIVER — As the United States recognizes the Iraq invasion that began 20 years ago in March 2003, there’s a little-known local tribute to the more than 19 Bristol County soldiers whose lives were lost in that war, in Fall River’s Veterans Memorial Bicentennial Park.
The black granite “Gulf War Global War on Terror” memorial with gold lettering has the names of local residents who died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
More than 4,000 Americans alone perished in the Iraq conflict.
The monument, flanked by the impressive Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Wall, Iwo Jima War Memorial and several other tributes to fallen American soldiers, is the latest installation in the park, located on Davol Street along the banks of the Taunton River.
Marine Corps League Commandant Bruce Aldrich said the monument, honoring the lives of fallen soldiers of the Gulf War and Global War on Terror, was created during the COVID pandemic with funds left over from a fundraiser for the Gold Star family memorial.
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Memorial brings together names, and families, from across Bristol County
Aldrich said there are memorials erected around Bristol County for fallen soldiers in Rehoboth, Taunton, Freetown, Fall River and New Bedford.
“So, I said why don’t we erect a monument and put all the names from Bristol County on one monument so people will know more about it?” said Aldrich. “So we agreed to do this.”
With only $7,000 on hand to design and create the memorial, Aldrich said, he contacted Warren Monument Co., which built the Gold Star family monument, and the carpenters and bricklayers unions for help.
“That kept the cost down with all the donations, and we were able to put up this memorial,” said Aldrich.
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Grief is still too close for local families
He said the Gulf War memorial has taken many by surprise who have visited the park to show respect for lost loved ones.
“People come by because there is so much out there about the Vietnam memorial, the Iwo Jima and the Gold Star [memorials]. People say they didn’t know about it because it was never dedicated,” said Aldrich.
Like a lot of things, the COVID pandemic stopped a dedication from happening.
Aldrich said he thought with the 20th anniversary of the U.S. and its allies engaging in the Iraq War, it was time to acknowledge the monument in a dedication ceremony. But after talking to some family members who lost loved ones, he found their pain was still too raw.
“It was bringing back too many memories,” said Aldrich. “So, we’ll let it go for now and maybe in another year or so we’ll do something.”
Aldrich said he still wants to get the word out to the public that the monument exists.
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“You have the World War II memorial,” said Aldrich pointing to the various monuments in the park. “You have the Vietnam memorial, the Korean War memorial, but there was no big monument to honor the kids in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I thought what a great beautiful place to have here in the park to tie all the monuments together,” said Aldrich.
He said he hopes that people who were affected by the Middle East wars can find some measure of peace on the anniversary of the Iraq invasion, at this little-known monument honoring local soldiers who lost their lives.