Fundraiser to create memorial for only Stryker Brigade without one

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- Memorial Park on base at Joint Base Lewis McChord is a special place.

It specifically honors those lost since the September 11th terror attacks. There are monuments here for the 2nd and 4th Stryker Brigades, the 42nd Military Police Brigade and the 555th Engineer Brigade known as the Triple Nickel.

On each one, the names of the fallen are forever etched in stone, never to be forgotten.

"Every Saturday morning, me and my family walk through here," said Col. Louis Zeisman, current commander of the 2nd Stryker Brigade. "It's a way to remember and we treat it as a place of honor."

Each time, he said he looks at a different soldier's name.

Col. Zeisman said the 2-2, as they're known, also suffered casualties, yet they do not have a memorial -- at least not yet.

"Currently our memo is at the Pentagon in Washington D.C.," he said.

That memo details the plan for a memorial; two tall pillars of granite where the names of the fallen will be engraved. In the middle is a bench and footsteps walking away.

"When you see the footsteps walking off by themselves, it touches everybody," Zeisman said. "And you know that's just a way to remember they were soldiers and they gave it their wall and they're always going to be with us."

It's not know exactly how many names will go on the memorial just yet, but this tribute will include the 5-2, reorganized to the 2-2.

"Our ladies came up with it all by themselves," Zeisman said. "They voted on it and we can't wait to see it here."

The "ladies" he said they call the Hearts Behind the Shield; spouses and family diligently working to raise the money needed to make this a reality. They established the Lancer Soldier Family Fund to raise the money needed to build their tribute. Connie Dotson, wife of Command Sergeant Major Tim Dotson said they've been working just more than a year on this now.

Their mission of delivering a monument speaks directly to the brigade's motto: Seize the High Ground.
"That means we're going to get there no matter what it takes we're going to accomplish our mission," Zeisman said. "We're going to seize the high ground. We're going to do it with honor and pride with a well-disciplined force."

So far, the Lancer Soldier Family Fund has raised $13,000 of the $60,000 needed to build this memorial. Mrs. Dotson said they've already picked out the granite and had it shipped here from Sweden.

And now the entire Brigade, their families and friends come together for a huge fundraiser that Dotson said should get them to their goal. It's a full day of family fun in Lacey that kicks off with a motorcycle ride and includes entertainment for the kids, live music and food.

Col. Zeisman said they expect the memorial to be up by May 2015 and they've already started inviting families.

"The Army is a special, special organization that has special people and what makes our Army special is our families," he said. "And I can not wait for the day that I can bring our families back; our Gold Star families back and show them that we have not forgotten. We have not forgotten that their sons and daughters have given it their all, they are our true heroes, we absolutely love them and I cannot wait for the day that they come back and see what we provided for them."

The fundraiser is Friday (May 16) from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Northwest Harley Davidson in Lacey.