Boots On The Ground

Story + Photography by Tony Centonze

Each year, the front lawn of the 101st Airborne Division headquarters at Fort Campbell, Kentucky becomes a memorial to our fallen troops called Boots on the Ground. A memorial that is visited by thousands of friends, family members, and fellow soldiers during a period of time known as Week of the Eagles.

This year's memorial was created by placing a single boot for each of the more than 7,600 Army men and women who have fallen since September 11, 2001. Each boot is adorned with the name and picture of the soldier it represents. The boots are lined up by date of death, and a small American flag is attached. The resulting display is visually stunning, and quite moving.

At the Boots on the Ground opening ceremony, which kicked off Week of the Eagles, and Military Survivor Appreciation Week, Major General Brian Winski delivered some remarks to the crowd.

“Words cannot express our gratitude and our sense of shared loss,” Maj. Gen. Winski said. “Each of these fallen soldiers leaves behind a family, and also their family in the service, where they forged bonds and ties with those they served with, that are the strongest imaginable ties that could exist between two humans. I know you know this, but their Army family, their brothers and sisters in arms, also grieve their loss every single day.”