7,026 empty boots

Memorial pays tribute to a nation’s KIA

Posted 5/24/23

The boots are empty.

The 7,026 American veterans whose feet could have filled them were all killed in action since Sept. 11, 2001.

“Members of the public can come, and find people …

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7,026 empty boots

Memorial pays tribute to a nation’s KIA


The boots are empty.

The 7,026 American veterans whose feet could have filled them were all killed in action since Sept. 11, 2001.

“Members of the public can come, and find people that they know — people who paid the ultimate sacrifice,” said Tyrone Smith, Director of Veteran Supportive Services for Johnston-based Operation Stand Down Rhode Island (OSDRI).

The OSDRI Boots on the Ground for Heroes Memorial event will be held through Memorial Day weekend (from May 26-29).

“Volunteers will converge at Fort Adams State Park on (Wednesday, May 24) to set up the Memorial,” according to OSDRI. “On Friday, May 26, starting at 8 a.m., the Memorial will open to the public.”

Visitors can stop and reflect on America’s lost treasure all four days, through Memorial Day (open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on May 26, 27, and 28; and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Memorial Day, May 29).

“Each year this Memorial stands proud honoring our fallen and reminding the public about the true cost of freedom,” said Dee DeQuattro, Boots on the Ground founder. “It also serves as a place for those who knew and loved the individuals depicted in the boots to come spend time with them, heal, and remember their loved one.”

On Saturday, May 27, at 6:30 p.m., OSDRI will hold a “special ceremony for Rhode Island’s Gold Star Families to place the boots representing their fallen loved ones.”

“Just to be specific; these are all Killed in Action (KIA) post 9/11,” Smith said. “We also have an Invisible Scars of War monument — stand alone memorial — next to it.”

The Invisible Scars monument pays tribute to “a lot of people who succumbed to their invisible wounds directly related to conflict,” Smith explained.

“This monument recognizes the pain and sacrifices of those Service Members who have succumbed to the invisible scars of war such as depression and PTSD and ultimately committed suicide,” according to OSDRI. “This monument is the first of its kind in (Rhode Island) and it helps recognize the lasting effects of war and trauma.”

On Sunday, May 28, from 5-6 p.m., the Rhode Island National Guard’s 88th Army Band Jazz Ensemble is expected to perform “a Patriotic Concert.”

“This is the first year the Jazz ensemble has played the event,” OSDRI recommends. “In the past, the concert has been played by the full band. The concert is free of charge and those looking to attend are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and picnic blankets. The concert will feature patriotic selections from the band.”

The boots were donated by “various entities in 2015,” Smith explained. And in between Memorial Day events, the “boots are stored on our property within (OSDRI’s) mobile boots transport trailer.”

Flood Ford donated a Ford F-250 to haul the 30-foot long trailer from Johnston to Newport.

Smith said he hopes the memorial continues to spur “conversations and dialogue among people in the community about the cost of war.”

OSDRI launched the Boots on the Ground for Heroes Memorial in 2015. The memorial inhabited Roger Williams Park in Providence for its first three years.

“In 2019, the memorial relocated to its new home inside Fort Adams State Park in Newport,” according to OSDRI.

In 2021, the organization added “the 13 boots of the U.S. Service Members killed during with withdrawal from Afghanistan.”

 “The memorial depicts 7,026 boots adorned with flags and name placards representing the lives of the of the U.S. service members killed in action post 9-11 in the Global War on Terror,” according to OSDRI. “The exhibition has been seen by thousands of visitors since its inception in 2015. Every fallen service member is included in the memorial; service members are alphabetized by state allowing individuals to locate loved ones at the memorial. The Memorial continues to grow each year the war continues.”

Smith has helped to lead the set-up effort all week long.

“It’s a huge task,” Smith said from Fort Adams. “This is a memorial for the people. It’s for everybody. It’s not just our memorial. We want to make sure we do it right. It has to look right.”


Volunteers needed for OSDRI Boots Event

OSDRI needs your help! The Johnston-based organization is in great need of volunteers for their breakdown day (Tuesday, May 30 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.) at their Boots on the Ground for Heroes Memorial at Fort Adams in Newport.

Boots on the Ground for Heroes '23, open to the public, will take place throughout the weekend, leading up to breakdown day on May 30.

If anyone is interested in volunteering, they must sign up through the link: osdri.charityproud.org/VolunteerRegistration/Index/4506. (Scroll down to the calendar and click on the shift desired to sign up.) Contact Amanda Dean at  adean@osdri.org or 401-383-4730 with concerns or questions.


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