By Tom Ward
BAC Local 2
CHESTERFIELD TWP. - The First Battalion, 24th Marines suffered their 2nd greatest loss during the Iraq War 2006-2007. An effort to build a fitting memorial for the Fallen 22 Marines is now 10 years in the making.
The memorial honors “The Fallen 22” of the First Battalion, 24th Marines headquartered at nearby Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Twp. These soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice during deployments to Al Anbar Province, which Time Magazine called the most dangerous place in Iraq at the time.
Tom Ward with BAC Local 2 and Lee Graham of Operating Engineers Local 324 are volunteer coordinators on the project trying for a third year to push it past the finish line by Sept. 11, 2018. However, a great deal of progress was made last year. Phase one site work was done with 100 percent donated labor and equipment thanks to Local 324. The backdrop to the heart of the Memorial was also complete, the impressive 85-foot-long stone wall features a granite plaque engraved with the names of the Fallen 22. Along the pathway
to the memorial
a smaller wall with a plaque explains the meaning of the memorial.
As we all know, the trades have been hit hard by the skills gap, we are struggling to find skilled workers, and skilled volunteers are even harder to find. To complete the work before Sept. 11, 2018, we need to raise at least $125,000 to contract some of the remaining work. Phase two includes the Heart of the Memorial - the “Fallen Comrade Table” - it represents a tradition of setting an empty plate on the mess hall table when a soldier makes the ultimate sacrifice defending our freedom. The Memorial’s Granite Fallen Comrade Table and bench will feature 22 bronze plates engraved with each fallen Marine's name.
"Help us set the table" is the theme of the fundraising this year. Boots need to be in the dirt ASAP, getting footings placed for the table is a top priority. Other work to be done at the memorial site includes electrical work, placement of a flagpole, benches and landscaping. The total value of the project is estimated at $600,000. To date, volunteer contributions of skilled personnel, contractors, material and equipment have so far totaled nearly half that amount during the three-year course of the project. We are so close to completing our mission to honor the fallen and to present the memorial to the 22 families that have been waiting for 10 years to see its completion.
A host of volunteer and paid companies and organizations have been involved with the project. Macomb County-headquartered Roncelli Inc., has been enlisted to assist in managing the completion of the memorial along with DeSalvio Construction Group. Navetta Mason Contractors installed the 47 tons of stone veneer and granite panels on the walls at cost with BAC Local 2 masons and mason tenders from Laborers Local 1191. In addition to members of the Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 2, the Operating Engineers Local 324 and IBEW Local 58 members have also pledged their time and talent to the project.
"There’s a long list of people and organizations to thank and recognize," said Angelo Lema, the driving force behind the memorial, a retired master sergeant from the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and chairman of the First Battalion, 24th Marine Regiment Memorial Committee. "But for me, there's one thing, I want this memorial to last 100 years, and I want it done properly. We have been blessed with so many people who have stepped up to help, volunteers and paid workers. Everybody is skilled, they're doing a great job."
The 1-24 Memorial Committee would be honored if your local union hosts a fundraiser or joins us for Wolverine Harley Davison’s Poker Run on Saturday June 16, visit website below for details. Please share with your friends, family and membership on social media, every donation and post counts. A GoFundMe page has been created at the 1st Battalion, 24th Marines Memorial website, www.1-24memorial.com, or checks can be made payable to the Department of Michigan Marine Corps League with “1st Battalion, 24th Marines Memorial” in the memo line and mailed to PO Box 450117, Selfridge ANG Base, MI 48045. The Memorial Fund is a registered 501(c)(3) organization, and donations are tax deductible.
"I come out to the site often, and I'm so touched to see the work that's been done so far," Lema said. "It's very dramatic, beautiful. Now we're looking to complete the job."
memorial honoring “The Fallen 22” of the First Batallion, 24th Marines. Donations can be made at www.1-24memorial.com