Rarely is a war memorial erected while the fighting continues. But because the war on terrorism may be perpetual as well as global, outlasting the drawdown of U.S. forces in Afghanistan this year, it’s fitting that the Operation Freedom Memorial will be dedicated at 1 p.m. Saturday in Wichita’s Veterans Memorial Park, 339 N. Veterans Parkway.
The community owes its thanks to the volunteers and donors behind the handsome memorial, which honors the more than 90 Kansans who have died fighting terrorism. Special gratitude is due Anita Dixon, who spearheaded the project after losing her son, U.S. Army Sgt. Evan Parker, in Iraq in 2005. She became president of the Operation Freedom Memorial Foundation, which raised $225,000 to cover the cost of the monument’s black granite panels and bronze statue of a kneeling soldier.
The Operation Freedom Memorial, which is unique for the ongoing nature of the conflict and the freshness of the survivors’ grief, updates the crucial story the park tells of the courageous men and women in uniform who made the ultimate sacrifice across the decades and military branches. And it realizes Dixon’s goal, as she put it halfway through the four-year fundraising, that there be “a place we can come and know that all of our children and all of our family members who served are together.”