NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) — More than 7,000 pairs of combat boots returned to Fort Adams State Park Friday to honor the men and women killed in the war on terrorism.
The display officially opened to the public Friday morning and will stay put through Memorial Day. Each pair of boots, which are adorned with American flags and named placards, represents a servicemember who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Of those more than 7,000 boots, 29 represent the Rhode Islanders who lost their lives.
“Each year this memorial stands proud honoring our fallen and reminding the public about the true cost of freedom,” Boots on the Ground founder Dee DeQuattro said. “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.”
Tyrone Smith, director of veteran services for Operation Stand Down, tells 12 News memorials like Boots on the Ground ensure that Americans will never forget those who fought for their freedom.
“It’s super important every year to remind people what selfless service is, what true personal courage is,” Smith said. “To me, these brave men and women are heroes. They came in peace and paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
Smith said the memorial also sparks important conversations among those who visit.
“People are here, coming out and asking questions about who these individuals were, and the cost of war,” he said. “Any time you have a gathering of people who start to ask those questions, we grow.”
The Boots on the Ground memorial will be on display all weekend from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., as well as on Memorial Day itself from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The memorial was first launched by Operation Stand Down back in 2015.