Scattered across a contemplative plaza area along the waterfront at Town Point Park in Downtown Norfolk as if blown by the wind, sits the Armed Forces Memorial. Spanning 160-foot, the monument consists of 22 cast bronze letters depicting actual text written to loved ones by members of the Armed Forces who never returned from war. Erected in the summer of 1998, the memorial is dedicated to veterans of American conflicts from the Revolutionary War to the War in Afghanistan. Designed by James Cutler and Maggie Smith, the artists searched for voices to convey diverse emotional experiences.
In April 2020, 2 new letters were added to commemorate soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Maggie and James state “In remembering those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and lost their lives, we were able to highlight two things previously unrepresented in the memorial: the first, the loss of mothers in combat who left young children; and the second, a soldier’s view of the toll war takes on civilians.”
Take a look at this Visit Norfolk brochure that gives you some interesting facts:
Read text from the 2 letters installed in 2020:
Army Staff Sergeant Darrell Ray Griffin, Jr., 34, of Alhambra, CA went on active duty in 2001. During his 1st combat tour in Iraq he earned a Bronze Star with V for valor for saving the lives of three American and Iraqui soldiers after an IED attack. He wrote:
It was…after an entire year of being deployed and well into the next deployment that I realized something. We burst into homes, frighten the hell out of families, and destroy their homes looking for an elusive enemy…
Griffin died during his second combat tour, shot by a sniper on March 21, 2007.
First Lieutenant and co-pilot, Tamara Long Arhculeta, 23, of Los Lunas, New Mexico was killed in a helicopter crash on her way to rescue Afghani children on March 23, 2003, a few weeks before she was scheduled to return home. Her son, Donnie, turned 4 years old the day after her funeral. A letter to her parents reads in part:
I have a really cute bear for Donnie that is in desert camouflage…and a t-shirt that says,”My Mom is a Soldier in Afghanistan.” I hope he likes them…I love you….