NORMAN, Okla. — A memorial honoring the 18 members of the Oklahoma National Guard who have died since U.S. troops began fighting in Afghanistan in 2001 was unveiled Wednesday in Norman at the Armed Forces Reserve Center.
Family members of the guardsmen killed during the ongoing War on Terrorism were on hand Wednesday to unveil the memorial, which included tributes to soldiers who died in other U.S. conflicts.
Most of the soldiers honored Wednesday were killed in Afghanistan. Most were married and had children — and nearly all were killed in 2011.
Military officials on hand thanked the families for their sacrifice and for keeping the memories of their loved ones alive.
After short biographies were read for all of the men and women who were honored Wednesday, Maj. Gen. Myles Deering spoke to the fallen soldiers’ families.
“When we began this journey together, I promised you two things,” Deering told the small group of family members in attendance.
“First, that your loved one would not be forgotten. Your soldier is our soldier. Secondly, I promised you that you would always be a part of our camp. This is an example of that. Think of the good that comes out of this.”
A large crowd of soldiers and other personnel attended the memorial’s unveiling Wednesday. Family members sat near the memorial, which is a display of shadow boxes. Inside each box is a soldier’s portrait, a photograph of them in action, and a short biography that documents the date and circumstances of their death.
Family members who attended the ceremony said their loved ones would have appreciated the understated tribute.
“It’s a great honor,” said Krysten Isenhower. Her brother, Sgt. Bret Isenhower, 26, of Seminole, was killed in the war. “You know, being a family member, you don’t ever want your soldier to be forgotten. So, seeing a memorial come together like this — it’s a great honor for their sacrifice.”
She said her brother “was so humble — and so proud to serve,” and that he and soldiers like him “are not celebrities — they don’t do it for the limelight.”
“He was one of those people who would truly just give you the shirt off his back,” she said. “He was just awesome. I miss him.”
The memorial also included tributes to Oklahoma soldiers who died in earlier conflicts.
According to plaques displayed inside the memorial, 680 Oklahoma soldiers were killed in action during World War I. Also, 679 were killed by disease or other means during the war.
During World War II, considered by most to represent the zenith in armed conflict, 3,647 soldiers from Oklahoma were killed in action. Because of advances in technology and medical care, only 533 died from disease or other causes.
The memorial also lists data for the Korean War. During that conflict, which started in 1950, 834 Oklahoma soldiers were killed in action.