By the end of this week — that is, by Christmas Day — another 1,500 U.S. Marines will be on the ground in Afghanistan as part of the surge which President Obama ordered this month.
Victoria Turney knows how they feel. And how their families feel.
Turney, who lives in Cobb County, retired from the Marine Corps after 20 years, including deployments to Japan and to the Middle East as part of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Now her son is a Marine sergeant who has served two tours in Iraq and may go to Afghanistan next.
“Now I’m on the other side, and I didn’t realize what my parents were going through when I was overseas, be it during peacetime or during conflict,” Turney says. “Just getting a voice mail or an e-mail from my son, no matter how brief — you keep the voice mail as long as you can because that is their voice.”
This understanding of the two sides of absence has driven Turney to pursue a new monument in Marietta — a statue to honor “those who wait behind for those who protect, serve, support and defend our freedoms.”
“We have that ultimate sacrifice in our heads,” Turney says of soldiers and their families. “But what about just [smaller] sacrifices? Every family sacrifices when their [loved ones], no matter what age, are not at home.”
And not only military families: The monument will also honor the families of law enforcement officers and first responders.
“It’s about the fireman who kisses his child goodbye in the morning and goes to work,” Turney says, “but it’s a different kind of work — putting others above himself.”
The monument will be a life-size bronze statue of a woman with windswept hair and a flag pressed against her chest. It’s a project of the Kiwanis Club of Marietta, for which Turney serves as president. The goal is to dedicate it at next year’s Fourth of July parade.
The statue will stand just off the Marietta Square and will be called “Forever Remember.” It will be a reminder for those who don’t sacrifice directly, and a place to reflect for those who do.
A co-chair of the project, Clark Hungerford, whose oldest son served two tours in Afghanistan, says “it would have been nice to have a park like the one where Forever Remember will be, to reflect on how proud we were of his service to his country and also to pray for the safety of him and his comrades over there.”
The design was inspired in part by Turney’s service in the Marine Corps’ funeral detail for metro Atlanta.
There would be the normal rites and salutes. “Then I would present the folded flag to the family on behalf of a grateful nation,” she says. “And when you hand that flag to somebody, I don’t care [if they’re] young, old, male, female, they push it into their chest. They cannot get enough of that flag; they cannot get it close enough….
“That’s their last physical piece of their person.”
The woman in the statue, which is being built by a Utah-based artist named Dennis V. Smith, represents no particular era or region. Only 12 life-size statues will be built before Smith breaks the mold (though he may make and sell more smaller replicas) and only one statue may be erected in a single state. Pictures and more information are available at www.ForeverRemember.us.
While the statue is intended to help us remember the past and present, Turney says it’s important to see that the woman is looking to the future.
“She shows hope, she shows a commitment, she shows character. And I truly believe she speaks to the character of our community.”
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