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Remembering Our Fallen

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National Military Memorial Coming To Southwest Iowa

By Joe Foreman, Editor

Since its unveiling in September 2017 in front of 1,000 Gold Star Family members at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the Remembering Our Fallen traveling memorial has been displayed at dozens of prominent events and locations across the country.

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The towers that honor more than 5,000 members of the United States military that have paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving their country in the War on Terror, has been displayed at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California, a Veterans Day observance in New York City, the Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia, Wrigley Field in Chicago, the National Mall in Washington, D.C., outside college football stadiums at schools like Alabama, Tennessee and Nebraska and most recently at the College World Series in Omaha.

This weekend, the memorial will be in southwest Iowa, at the Junction Days celebration in Red Oak.

“The mission is that the fallen not be forgotten from Iraq and Afghanistan,” Bill Williams, who along with his wife Evonne, founded Patriotic Productions, the non-profit organization that created and oversees management of the memorial. “That’s the biggest fear of Gold Star Families - that their lost loved ones are going to be forgotten. To those families, it’s everything and that’s why it’s so important.”

Williams will be accompanying the memorial to Red Oak, in part, because he is a Red Oak High School graduate and will be celebrating his 50th reunion this weekend with fellow graduates from the Class of 1969. Williams first discussed bringing Remembering Our Fallen to Junction Days several months ago with Vietnam veteran Larry Barnett.

“I told him over a year ago, we should route the national Remember Our Fallen towers to Junction Days,” Williams recalled. “He jumped all over it and got Mayor (Bill) Billings involved. Mayor Billings lost his son-in-law in Afghanistan – Jamie Skalberg – so it’s personal to him.

The Remembering Our Fallen memorial consists of 32 towers – each 10 feet tall and 6 feet in circumference. Every tower contains biographies and photos of the fallen heroes. The memorial puts faces with the names of servicemen and servicewomen who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan protecting our freedoms.

“We ask the families for a military photo and their favorite personal picture,” Williams said. “That was Evonne’s idea, because by adding the personal picture, that’s what really makes it emotional. You have a straight-ahead unsmiling Marine and then the inset photo is him in his 4-H cap or with his own children, which is powerful.”

The idea to honor those who have fallen in the War on Terror was inspired by a newspaper article about a father who had lost his son in Iraq and was concerned he’d be forgotten. Bill and Evonne read the article and thought something should be done, so they created an exhibit of the pictures.

The first set of memorial towers were for Nebraskans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Next came Iowa.

“We didn’t want it to sit in a museum. We wanted it to travel,” Williams said. 

The Nebraska exhibit has been booked every week since Jan. 2, 2011 – all over the Cornhusker state and seen by thousands of people. On the east side of the Missouri River, the Iowa Remembering Our Fallen exhibit has been traveling since May 1 of 2011 and it’s also been viewed by thousands, including students at schools in both Mills and Montgomery counties.

Eventually, there would be exhibits made for 17 other states.

“Our original plan was to just do one for every state,” Williams pointed out. “Our largest one is California. They’ve lost the most in the country – 702 and it’s 240 feet long. Iowa and Nebraska’s are the same – they’re 40 feet. Texas is 200 feet long, they’ve lost 600. Florida is big and New York is big so we were having trouble finding indoor spaces to display them, so we decided to change the emphasis and create a national one and that’s turned out to be the best move we’ve ever had.”

The plan, Williams said, is to keep both the state and national memorials traveling for as long as possible to honor the fallen and not let them be forgotten.

In Red Oak, the towers will be displayed on a lot near Town Square that once was the site of a “Five and Dime” store. The display will be surrounded by a circle of American flags and illuminated during the nighttime hours.
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About Patriotic Productions
Patriotic Productions is a non-profit organization founded by Red Oak native Bill Williams and his wife, Evonne. They reside in Omaha.

Patriotic Productions has organized and raised funds that have taken over 3,500 WWII, Korea and Vietnam veterans on “honor flights” to see their respective memorials in Washington D.C. from 2008 to 2019. The most recent flight, the Purple Heart Flight, took place in May and included a combination of veterans who had earned the Purple Heart or Bronze Star With Valor and members of Gold Star Families. The flights spurred an interest in creating more events and opportunities to honor our country’s veterans and their families, as did the Williamses four sons, who have changed their family’s legacy to that of one serving in the military.  Bill and Evonne are not veterans, nor do they come from military families, but their four sons have all volunteered to serve in the military -  two soldiers and two Marines.