Approximately 7,800 boots, honoring the lives of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who have made the ultimate sacrifice since Sept. 11, 2001, are on display at Sadowski Parade Field through Sunday.
Fort Hood’s sixth annual Memorial Remembrance Boot Display honors the fallen with a combat boot containing a badge with a picture and the name of the service member, along with an American flag.
“Many of the boots within the display were freely given by military members who cared enough to share their own boots, though some of the boots in the display actually belonged to the service member who passed away,” explained event organizer Kent Brickman, branch manager of Army Community Service’s Wounded and Fallen Branch. “Fort Hood remains resolute to ensure survivors of the fallen know that their sacrifices and, moreover, the sacrifice of their loved ones are not forgotten and will never be forgotten.”
John Hamilton, chief of fitness, athletics and aquatics for Fort Hood, who coordinated with units for Soldier support, said setting up the display was a “labor of love” for everyone involved.
Soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division, 13th Expeditionary Sustainment Command, 3rd Cav. Regiment, 11th Theater and Tactical Signal Brigade, 36th Engineer Brigade, 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade and 89th Military Police Brigade joined dozens of civilian volunteers Friday to set-up the display, arranged by year.
“I am humbled each time I speak with those who seek to assist or volunteer, with only selfless-service within their hearts,” Brickman said. “Those individuals are always amazing to work with as well.”
Long after the other Soldiers and volunteers had left, Pvt. Charles Hamilton, a medic with 581st Area Support Medical Company, 1st Medical Brigade, was still on the field, picking up boots that had blown over due to heavy winds.
“What else could I do? I chose to stay back and help for everything they’ve done,” he said, pointing to the field of boots. “Everything we fight for and everything they gave their lives for.”
Sometimes funny and sometimes touching messages are emblazoned on the boots, showing the love and respect they earned in life. Brickman said loved ones often leave notes, photos and other mementos with the boot.
Some service members may be found by the year of death, but others may be linked to another fallen. Brickman explained that normally those tied together were good friends, family members or those who were killed together.
The display is organized annually by the Fort Hood Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare & Recreation, with a different person organizing the event each year. Brickman said he was honored to finally act as the event organizer because it holds a special place in his heart.
“It is imperative that the sacrifices or our fallen are never forgotten and it is equally important to me to honor our survivors who have lost their loved ones,” Brickman said about the Gold Star families. “Those survivors were involuntarily thrust into their current journey and though none had anticipated the weight that they would have to carry, due to their loss, they each carry that weight with dignity and poise, in my experience.”
Year after year, the badges begin to fade in the sun, so Brickman said there is an ongoing project to replace all the faded badges on display. He said that Survivor Outreach Services have coordinated with volunteers to replace approximately 1,200 badges so far. If anyone is interested in volunteering, contact Brickman at 254-368-5365.
The boot display is available for viewing from sunrise to sunset through Sunday. People are asked to maintain social distancing or wear a mask.