These boots are decorated with pictures and personal messages to fallen soldiers from Fort Bragg. Volunteers will be decorating over 7000 pairs of boots for a memorial to be displayed during a 5K race in May.
By Amanda Dolasinski Staff writer | UpdatedYesterday
Big blue and red letters scrawled across the toe of a tan Army boot capture the sentiment of a proud - and heartbroken - family.
"Our Hero!," it reads. "Till we meet again!"
Hanging from the boot laces is a tag with a picture of Sgt. 1st Class Keith Callahan, smiling as he stands in his green Army uniform.
The Callahan family said their goodbyes to the soldier in 2007, but will continue to remember him through a temporary special display at Fort Bragg next month.
About 7,500 boots will honor service members from all branches who have died since 9/11. They will be part of a display organized by Fort Bragg's Survivor Outreach Services and Fisher House during the garrison's May 5k family run.
"I think it's going to be a great tribute," said Charlotte Watson, program manager of Fort Bragg's survivor outreach group.
The idea for the display came from similar ones at Fort Hood, Texas, and Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Watson said. The SOS pushed for a display at Fort Bragg to coincide with Memorial Day and began collecting boots in March.
Volunteers tie the laces of each boot and stuff an empty water bottle inside to hold the shape.
During an event last month, members of the Gold Star Wives organization decorated boots for their veterans. Family members have been invited to decorate boots to mail or drop off at the office, otherwise the boot will hold just a tag of the fallen service member.
The boots have been packed in storage tubs, which will be taken to Hedrick Stadium field by trucks and unloaded.
Volunteers will place the boots around the stadium, Watson said. Once the boots are laid out, volunteers will attach a personalized tag with the portrait of a fallen soldier, his or her unit and date of death.
The tags will be in sequential order, and markers to separate years of death will be posted, Watson said.
The unloading and display could take volunteers up to four hours, she said.
Leading up to the event, volunteers have been in and out of the SOS building to help tie laces and stuff boots. Watson said she understood there would be 7,500 boots for display, but knowing they represent a service member, has been overwhelmed to see the boots pile up in her office.
"That has been sad for me, knowing we lost so many," she said. "This is an opportunity to pay tribute to the sacrifice."
The boot for Callahan was decorated by his family during the Gold Star Wives event last month. It bears the signatures of his wife and children.
Callahan, 31, a platoon sergeant with 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, was covering his men at a road crossing when he was killed in January 2007. A roadside bomb detonated near Callahan when the unit was south of Baghdad.
It was his fourth deployment to Iraq.
On another boot, a family wrote "Lo Que Sea, Donde Sea, Cuando Sea," which translates to "Anything, Anytime, Anywhere" and is the motto for the 7th Special Forces Group.
The boot, which will be displayed in honor of Sgt. 1st Class Pedro A. Munoz, is decorated with patriotic stars and an American flag.
Munoz, 47, of Quebradillas, Puerto Rico, died in January 2005 in Shindand, Afghanistan. He was an operations and intelligence sergeant assigned to the 1st Battalion, 7th Special Forces Group.
Munoz's patrol came under attack while searching a compound near Shindand Airfield in Herat province.
Next to a little hand drawn heart on the heel of the boot are the signatures of Munoz's wife and daughter.
My name is Melissa Jarboe, military spouse, wounded warrior wife and war widow. Today and everyday moving forward, I will honor the sacrifice of our men and women who selflessly serve our nation.