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Community raising funds to install chess-table memorial for soldier killed in Niger ambush

Special Forces soldiers pay condolences during the graveside service of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Bryan Black in Section 60 of Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, Oct. 30, 2017.

ELIZABETH FRASER/U.S. ARMY PHOTO

By ALLISON NEEDLES | The Puyallup Herald (Tribune News Service) | Published: January 24, 2018

Community members launched a campaign to raise money to build a memorial to Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, who died in an ambush in Niger on Oct. 4.

Black, 35, grew up in Puyallup and graduated from Puyallup High School in 2000. He enlisted in the Army in 2009.

After hearing of his death, community groups came together to discuss how they could commemorate him with a permanent memorial.

“We knew we wanted to do something,” Puyallup City Council member Tom Swanson said. “We wanted it to be what his family wanted.”

An avid chess player, Black played tournaments around the state and was a member of the Tacoma Chess Club. That’s where he met Phil Watson while he was still in high school.

“We used to play chess together every week,” said Watson, who went to school in Lakewood at the time. “He had a great personality — fun personality; always had a one-liner joke for everything.”

In 1999, Black won the state team championship as first board — usually reserved for the best player on the team — with the Puyallup High School Chess Club and placed seventh at the national team tournament.

“He beat a lot of really good players,” Watson said.

Black’s background in chess inspired concrete chess tables as the memorial. A GoFundMe was started by Puyallup Parks Foundation manager Therese Pasquier on Jan. 10 to raise money and get the tables installed in Pioneer Park.

“To honor Bryan’s military service and pay tribute to his chess legacy, the Puyallup community is trying to raise $7,500 to buy two outdoor chess tables,” the GoFundMe states.

So far, $3,820 has been raised by the community, with various community groups pledging more. The Puyallup Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Association of the United States Army and the American Legion have pledged so far.

Each chess table comes with built-in metal benches and costs about $3,610. The tables would have Black’s names etched into them.

The family is thankful and grateful for the effort, said Hank Black, Bryan’s father.

“We want Bryan remembered and Puyallup is where he spent a good part of his high school,” he said. “We’re honored in Bryan’s name that the community would do something like this...It’ll help people remembered who he was and the things that he did.”

Chess is a great game for kids to play, added Hank, and he hopes this memorial will give more kids the opportunity to learn.

The Puyallup Parks Foundation hopes to complete the $7,500 goal by March 1 to get the benches installed before summer.

For more information and to donate, visit the memorial's GoFundMe campaign .

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©2018 the Puyallup Herald (Puyallup, Wash.)
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