MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
The Wall of Fallen Heroes, a wall featuring the names and faces of all 133 Marines and Sailors from 2nd Marine Division who died during Operation Enduring Freedom was officially opened during a ceremony aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., August 8, 2011.
The Wall of Fallen Heroes, as it has been officially named, was the brain child of Col. Ray Johnson, assistant chief of staff for G-1 Manpower, Policy and Plans Division, 2nd MarDiv.
“I first got this idea when I encountered something similar during my time in Marine Forces Command Reserve,” said Johnson. “I felt like we should do something for the men who gave their lives for 2nd Marine Division.”
Although Johnson was the driving force behind the project, there was another Marine to whom the importance of the memorial was not lost.
Staff Sgt. Donald S. Estes, the staff noncommissioned officer for 2nd MarDiv’s casualty cell, was the leader on the approximately four-month long project.
“This project was all about honoring those who came before us,” said Estes. “What better way to honor them then to make sure every Marine who walks by this wall is reminded of what their fellow Marines sacrificed?”
At the beginning of the project, the Marines believed they had a relatively modest task, but as time wore on, they began to understand just how much work they had ahead of them.
“Building the actual wall was the easy part,” said Estes. “Getting the information on all the Marines who had died since the beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom was a lot tougher.”
Estes, along with the Marines of the casualty cell, sifted through large amounts of electronic and paper records. Trying to find each and every Marine and photos of each to hang on the wall in their honor was well worth the hard work, he said.
Along with help from the division’s Combat Camera, they worked tirelessly for months to make sure every piece of information was correct, including Marines’ place of birth, age, unit, and date of death.
After all their work, the Marines were ready for the day when they could finally show off their finished work. During a ceremony presided over by Johnson, and to which Brig. Gen. W. Lee Miller, acting commanding general, 2nd Marine Division, was a guest, the wall was inspected by a number of Marines.
“I think it turned out really good,” said Estes. “Now when Marines walk through these halls, they can get a sense of perspective because of what these Marines have done.”
Estes invites all Marines to view the wall, and if they notice a discrepancy, have a better picture of one of the heroes or just want to show their appreciation, to contact him at 2nd Marine Division’s casualty cell at (910)-450-5835.