Display honoring Georgia's military is unveiled at National Infantry Museum
COLUMBUS, Ga. — The "Remembering Our Fallen" display unveiled Sunday at the National Infantry Museum honors 198 members of the military from Georgia who have died in the service of their country since the terrorism attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
A handwritten note next to the photograph of Marine Lance Cpl. Jeffery S. Blanton reads "Always in My Heart, Amber."
Amber Blanton placed it there Sunday.
An Army staff sergeant stationed at Fort Indiantown Gap in Pennsylvania, she made the trip for the opening ceremony.
Her note is close to a wedding day photograph that is part of the display. She and Jeffery had been married just nine months when on Dec. 12, 2004, he was killed by small arms fire in Iraq.
At the time, she was serving in Afghanistan.
He was 23, and she was 20.
"We had only lived together officially as husband and wife for two months," she said.
She said after his death others in her unit said she might want to leave the service.
"Jeffery would roll over in his grave if I gave up," she said. "That would be taking another soldier out of the fight."
She said with her husband's death the nation lost an "incredible Marine."
Of the display, she said, "it is comforting to know people worked so hard to honor those who gave so much. Generations to come will know about their sacrifice."
The traveling exhibit, which will be here until Nov. 2 before it goes to other Georgia cities, features photographs of the soldiers both in the field and with family. Some photographs have soldiers with their children. Some are of the soldiers as children.
Information is given about how each was killed.
Many family members and friends in attendance Sunday left notes similar to Amber's.
The memorial was conceived by Bill and Evonne Williams of Omaha, Neb. They formed Patriotic Productions to produce the exhibits. They said they had a desire to honor the United States military and share that opportunity with others who wish to do the same.
The couple has four sons serving in the military.
Bellevue University in Nebraska is the financial sponsor.
"Man Does Not Die Until He is Forgotten" is the theme of the project.
Memorial displays have been created for Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Colorado, Arizona, North Dakota, Kansas, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Texas and Georgia.
Bill Williams told an audience of about 200 that his goal is to have a display from every state by 2016, and he would love to show them all together in large arenas.
"Your loved ones will not be forgotten," Williams said.
Col. Leopoldo Quintas, commandant of the U.S. Armor School at Fort Benning, told those gathered that the display was a wonderful way to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
He said he was humbled to be in the presence of the family and friends of fallen heroes.
"Their service has most definitely made a difference," Quintas said.