WASHINGTON -- A nationwide project is under way to pay lasting tribute to fallen service members in their hometowns.
The "Statues of Servicemen" campaign is an effort to immortalize every American service member killed in the war on terrorism by creating a bronze statue of their likeness.
The statues will be placed in the hometowns of the fallen service members.
"These statues will be placed in city and town halls and government buildings throughout the United States to memorialize the brave men and women who have given their lives in the war on terror," said Sam Patterson, national SOS project director.
The organization began in March 2004 as "Survivors of Servicemen," with the goal of bringing attention to the trauma inflicted on the families of those killed, and to highlight the financial distress faced by many military families.
The group began selling "Wear Camo" wristbands to raise money for families who lost loved ones. The wristbands were so successful that they decided to use the proceeds to fund the statue campaign, Patterson said.
The first statue was unveiled in Shelbyville, Tenn., on April 22 with the bust of Pfc. Daniel McClenney. He was killed on June 24, 2004, when his unit was ambushed while patrolling Afghanistan's mountainous Konar province.
The ceremony took place at the Shelbyville Court House, where the Nashville Marine Corps Reserve unit provided a 21-gun salute, and McClenney was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.
McClenney's commanding officer, Lt. Col. Julian D. Alford, presented the medal to McClenney's father, Randy McClenney.
"His life was lived as an example of decency, and his death a costly price for freedom," Alford said. "His fellow Marines continue to feel his absence, and they will never be the same. But they are more committed to the causes of liberty."
"This medal means so much to me," Randy McClenney said. "It's something I can look at every day and think of my son."
Regarding the statue, Randy McClenney said, "I am sure my son would have been deeply touched by your gift to his family and the city of Shelbyville."
The second statue, this one depicting Capt. Brent Morel, was unveiled in Memphis, Tenn., on May 21.
Morel was killed in Iraq on April 7, 2004, when insurgents ambushed his platoon while they escorted a convoy in the Anbar province. He was awarded the Navy Cross and is nominated for the Medal of Honor.
"I know that what he was doing was noble and right. It was what he had been trained to do and something he chose to do," said Brent's father, Mike Morel.
SOS is working with parents and spouses around the country to memorialize more troops.
"The human psyche is eased in times of deep sorrow by remembering and attempting to make tangible lives that are lost," Alford said. "Memorials serve this purpose. Memorials make our remembrance palpable."