FORT LEWIS — Col. Cynthia Murphy, the Army post’s garrison commander, said there are many practical reasons to unify all of the memorials here that honor fallen service members.
But one overriding consideration led to the creation of Reflection Park, Murphy said before she and more than a dozen guests broke ground on the $1 million project under a bright-blue sky Friday morning.
“We want to keep them in our hearts and minds and never forget,” she said.
Today, the 6-acre meadow framed by trees in the heart of Fort Lewis sometimes is used by soldiers for training. Over the next year, it will transform into a tranquil sanctuary where family members and others can honor people with ties to Washington who have died in service since World War I.
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Once the project is complete, visitors will be able to walk down a path to a reflecting pool, advancing chronologically from World War I to the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The path will feature life-size statues representing each of the service branches during each era.
“You have a sense as you walk toward the pond of them walking with you,” said Bruce Lavine, regional executive vice president for Equity Residential, which will fund and construct the park as one of its community-improvement projects.
Equity Residential and its partner, Lincoln Property Co., has joined with the Army to manage housing on the post.
Paths bordered with engraved stones will branch from the main path. The stones will feature the names of service members — airmen, Marines, sailors or soldiers.
An electronic kiosk in a building at the park’s entrance will help visitors find the engraved names in the park as well as provide information on the history of the conflicts, unit action and fallen individuals.
Fundraising and donations will pay for the kiosk, statues and engraved stones.
Fort Lewis later will develop a 4-acre parcel at the end of Reflection Park where it will have all of its unit memorials. Fort Lewis has no memorials that specifically honor individual service members who have been killed in combat.
The idea for the park sprouted during a staff meeting attended by Lt. Gen. James Dubik, the former commanding general of Fort Lewis and I Corps, Murphy said.
The idea and design of the park grew from meetings with focus groups on the post and in the area. An architect was brought on board to put the ideas to paper.
Meanwhile, it took six months for Fort Lewis officials to find the perfect location for the new park, Murphy said.
“Once I walked into this grove of trees, it was like, ‘Ah, this is the place where we need to build it,’ ” she said.
Jeff and Sandy Norton attended the ceremony and said the new park will be a fitting tribute to their son, Justin, a Rainier native who died in Iraq last year, and to other fallen service members.
“Justin would be honored to have his name on this wall,” Jeff Norton said.
Christian Hill covers the city of Lacey and military for The Olympian. He can be reached at 360-754-5427 or firstname.lastname@example.org.