Each year, on the last Monday in May, the United States celebrates Memorial Day. This day is dedicated to those who gave their lives in defense of our country as members of the United States military. Traditionally, this remembrance focuses on those who lost their lives in combat or in a combat theater.
We should not, however, forget those who are honorably serving in non-combat postings around the world. As with life in general, people die in accidents or as a result of illness. But when military personnel lose their lives, we sometimes forget that the loss often came far from home and family. It is a separation not dictated by choice but by the military needs of the United States.
Louisville, Kentucky took steps to address this issue. Dedicated on Veterans Day, November 11, 2002, the Patriots Peace Memorial honors those members of the United States military who, in the words of a plaque set in the center of the memorial, “gave their lives in the line of duty at times other than those of declared hostile action.”
Jefferson County Judge-Executive Rebecca Jackson conceived the memorial. The design, by David D. Quillin Architecture of Berlin, Maryland, features an ascending pyramidal court surrounded by elevated brick walls. The design of an American flag is etched into one wall.
As one climbs the interior steps, they ascend into the walls of the memorial, blocking the sights and sounds of nearby River Road and the adjacent park.
Whenever a military service member is identified as having died under the conditions specified for the memorial, one of the bricks of the wall is removed. It is replaced with a glass brick etched with the name and service branch of the deceased.
At this time, the memorial commemorates more than 440 military personnel. Their glass blocks create portals of light in the otherwise solid brick walls.
An example of the service identified by this memorial is that of PFC Jennifer L Vasey of nearby New Albany, Indiana. PFC Vasey, United States Army, was serving at a military base in South Korea when she was killed in an accident.
Although she did not die in combat, she lost her life at age 21 in honorable service to the United States. She deserves to have that loss and her service remembered.
For those wishing to visit the Patriots Peace Memorial, it is located at 3742 Upper River Road, only 100 yards or so from the Ohio River in Northeast Louisville.