Dover memorial honors new generation of warriors

DOVER – A special memorial was unveiled before a large crowd on Wednesday afternoon at Veterans Memorial Park –– the Middle East Conflicts Memorial, honoring servicemen and women who have served in the Middle East from 1979 through the present day and the future.

“We honor the newest generation of American warriors,” said Army National Guard Maj. Gen. Frank Vavala, adjutant general of Delaware. “For the past few decades our nation has been involved in the turmoil all over the globe and most directly in the Middle East.

“Today’s memorial is timely but somewhat overdue since it’s dedicated to those who served when the American embassy was bombed in 1979 in Tehran, forward through the first Gulf War and encompasses what we now call the Global War on Terror.”

The focus of the dedication was on young veterans, all of whom signed up for service by their own free will despite knowing nearly 95 percent of all active servicemen and women since 9/11 have been deployed, many to the Middle East.

“This memorial honors yet another generation and its role in the proliferation of freedom,” said Middle East veteran John Hampton, Wednesday’s keynote speaker.

Mr. Hampton retired as a technical sergeant from the U.S. Air Force in 2011. He served in the Middle East and Central America during a 21-year military career. He is an at-large member of the Delaware Commission of Veterans Affairs and chaired the Middle East Conflicts Memorial committee.

Before the unveiling of the memorial, Mr. Hampton explained the symbolism of the inscriptions on the Middle East Conflicts Memorial.

“It has an open book design which suggests that we’re not done yet; the next chapter of this book has yet to be written,” he said. “The etching and designs resemble how the things that matter show through and we should remain focused on them.”

Also featured are praying hands, a saluting military service member, an American flag at half mast, a battlefield cross, the military insignia and a map of the Middle East.

“Although Iraq and Afghanistan have been at the forefront, we would do a disservice to those who served in so many different areas,” Mr. Hampton said.

But the memorial isn’t only for the military servicemen and women, it is also for their families.

“We would be incredibly mistaken today to think that this memorial only honors the sacrifice of those who put on the uniform and not the immense sacrifice of those they left behind. The sacrifice of the family of a service member is immeasurable,” Maj. Gen. Vavala said.

The Middle East Conflicts Memorial was the next-to-last addition to the 1.5-acre Memorial Park on South Little Creek Road in Dover.

The final addition will be a POW/MIA Chair of Honor to be dedicated in March.

The park is also home to a Vietnam memorial, a Gold Star Mother and Families memorial, a Korean War memorial, a Huey Helicopter and a War Dog memorial.

All monuments in the park have been financed through private donations raised through Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 850. The park is also maintained by members of the organization.

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