FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (WBKO) – The 101st Airborne Division and Fort Campbell Army Community Service Survivor Outreach Services hosted a boot display opening ceremony for the 2023 Week of the Eagles.
The display of combat boots is presented at the 101st Airborne Division’s Headquarters to honor the memories and sacrifices of nearly 8,000 service members who have died on active duty since September 11, 2001.
Approximately 700 of those boots represent Fort Campbell Soldiers who have passed in the last three years; 31 were added since last year’s ceremony.
Each boot is decorated with a photo of a service member, the date of death, and the location of their death.
“Each of these great Americans, these heroes, being honored today died in the defense of our freedoms alongside teammates they loved and respected in the service of something bigger than themselves,” said Major General Joseph McGee, Commanding General of the 101st Airborne Division and Fort Campbell.
Families and friends of the fallen were at the ceremony to leave personal mementos and share stories of their loved ones.
Rebecca Ponder was one of the family members at the ceremony to pay tribute to her son Master Sergeant James William Ponder III.
“One thing that’s most important is that we always remember. This is just a way to remember them and acknowledge they are still with us,” said Ponder.
Charlsie Idol came to the ceremony from Houston, TX to honor fallen service members that served with her brother.
“When I walked up, it was just a roller coaster of emotions. I walked through all the boots and it’s just incredible how many there are,” said Idol.
Each year, the display draws thousands of visitors wishing to pay their respects and is maintained by surviving family members and volunteers.
“For those of us who remain. We have a duty to live in a way that not only honors their memory but is worthy of their immense sacrifice,” said McGee.
The boots will be on display until May 29.