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New memorial planned for 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers who died in training

Each year, families of fallen paratroopers gather on Fort Bragg to remember those lost. The memorial, during All American Week each summer, has most recently remembered those who died in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the casualties of the past war in Vietnam or other conflicts.

But what about the families of paratroopers who died at home? The soldiers who paid the ultimate price in training for a dangerous job?

By this coming All American Week, officials hope to have a new memorial in place to honor those paratroopers who died in training accidents over the years.

The 82nd Airborne Division Memorial Association, a nonprofit group that helps build and manage memorials for the division, is raising money for the memorial. The association hopes to unveil it at the 82nd Airborne Division War Memorial Museum in time for the weeklong celebration of paratroopers past and present.

Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Steve England, who leads the memorial association, accepted the first donation, a $1,000 check, from the 82nd Airborne Division Association on Wednesday.

Bill Bauer, executive director of the association, said the gesture shows that veterans are ready to help honor their fallen comrades.

"Our members would love to help," Bauer said, noting the organization has 97 chapters in 50 states.

England, a former division sergeant major, said the idea for the new memorial comes from the suggestion of a Gold Star mother, who noted last year that there was no where on post for her to mourn her lost soldier.

England said his past role makes him familiar with the loss of soldiers. They are always difficult, no matter where the death occurs - overseas or at home. Some past training deaths have individual memorials, he said. But there's no centralized location.

"Right now we don't have anything," England said. "We really don't have a collective memorial for the youngsters who were killed in training."

England said soldiers have an inherently dangerous job in preparing for war.

The 82nd Airborne Division has the added dangers of airborne operations, which allows the force to deploy anywhere in the world, but comes with its own set of risks.

The memorial, which is planned to include five granite slates, will list the names of those killed in airborne operations as well as during live fires, vehicle rollovers, helicopter crashes and other training accidents, England said.

The exact criteria and location are still being determined, he said.

For more information on the memorial or to donate, go to 82ndairborneassociation.org/assets/training-memorial-flyer-2015-v2.pdf

By Drew Brooks, Military Editor, Fayetteville Observer
Originally published December 21, 2015
Reprinted with permission