A dedication set in stone

More than 50 men and women of Fort Carson in Colorado have lost their lives in the fight for “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” To keep the memory and spirit of these soldiers alive in its community, “The Mountain Post,” as it is called, recently unveiled a memorial of tremendous portions -- built of solid black granite and featuring laser-etched designs by Laser Imaging & Design, Inc. of Lebanon, OH.

Standing more than 10 feet tall and weighing approximately 10,000 pounds, the memorial consists of three pieces. The front design is comprised of a large map of Iraq and the American flag, while the backside includes a military poem entitled “Fiddler's Green.” Inscribed in the sub-base are the names of the soldiers from Fort Carson who sacrificed their lives for their country.

“They definitely were very specific as to what was going on the memorial front and back,” said Jim Smith of Laser Imaging & Design, Inc. “The whole thinking was that they didn't want to offend or leave anyone out, so they tried to simplify it in the end.”

According to Smith, Laser Imaging & Design, Inc. received the contract for this project due to another memorial that they had produced for Fort Benning in Georgia. “We were contacted by Fort Benning to do a small 9/11 memorial for them,” he said. “They had lost three people in the Twin Tower attacks. The memorial was 4 feet tall, and it had a big eagle on the front with the Twin Towers on the back.

“The person in charge of the Iraqi Freedom memorial had gotten the word through his commander that we had done a nice memorial at Fort Benning,” continued Smith. “Basically, we got the job through word of mouth. We wanted to do this project out of what it was for, as opposed to making money off it.”

In addition to the large memorial, there are also three other smaller ones. “The others are used as accents in the courtyard area,” said Smith. “Each one is different. One is a donor stone and another is just for the names of the deceased.”

Producing the memorial

Based on the ideas of the generals at Fort Carson, Laser Imaging & Design, Inc. created initial drawings of the memorial, which was made of Ultimate Black granite from China and supplied through Tecstone Granite USA, Inc. of Columbus, OH. “We would e-mail the different proofs back and forth as we generated them for about a two- to three-week period,” said Smith. “It was a very lengthy approval process.”

With a dedication set for May 25, 2004, the timeframe was tight for production. “When the U.S. Army wants a deadline, that's it,” said Smith. “You have to figure out how to make it happen.”

In total, it took about 30 to 40 hours of production time to complete the project, according to Smith. “We were under the gun -- running the machine night and day,” he said. “We have three lasers in here now, but we needed to use the largest one for every piece because of the magnitude and size.”

All of the stone pieces were etched with a Vytek MLS 4496 laser-etching machine. “It is the largest piece of granite probably ever put on a laser,” said Smith. “The main piece was 4,100 pounds. We had to do some structural stuff to get it in the building.”

Because of the situation and dedication time involved, the Army decided to have the stone for the memorial air shipped from China. “To order this monument, it would normally take more than six months to arrive via ocean liner,” said Smith. “The memorial was manufactured and air shipped to us in a three-week period. Again, because of the situation and cause, the Army chose to pay for overnight shipping.” Additionally, the government funded a portion of the project, including landscaping. The rest of the expense was covered by donations, which are still being accepted by the Fort Carson Army base.

Once on site, the three large granite pieces were secured with 4-foot-long steel pins. Each piece was drilled, and then the sub-base was drilled down deep into concrete.

In the end, the community of Fort Carson was pleased with the finished memorial. More than 5,000 people witnessed its unveiling.

End box

Operation Iraqi Freedom Memorial
Fort Carson, CO
Laser Etching Fabricator: Laser Imaging & Design, Inc., Lebanon, OH
Stone Supplier: Tecstone Granite USA, Inc., Columbus, OH

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