Boots on the Ground for Heroes Memorial honors more than 7,000 fallen soldiers

NEWPORT, R.I. (WLNE) – Volunteers and veterans are setting up one of the state’s many Memorial Day Weekend ceremonies: the Boots on the Ground for Heroes Memorial.

The ceremony was virtual last year due to COVID, but it is back, beginning Friday, May 28. It attracts hundreds of people, even some from across the country.

The memorial is taking place at Fort Adams in Newport where there are 7,010 flags laid out across the grounds honoring fallen soldiers from across the country who sacrificed their lives. There’s also a special circle for the 29 Rhode Islanders who died in combat.

“It’s really sentimental to me,” Veteran Timothy Ruel said. “The Rhode Island 29… I knew three of them. Three of them were my close friends.”

Ruel was in their unit in the 150th Police Company, activated after 9/11 and deployed to Iraq.  He says Memorial Day means much more to him than the kick off of summer.

“This means a lot to me,” Ruel said. “This Memorial Day Weekend is in memory of the fallen. It’s not the barbeques or anything like that, it’s really to come here and I just sit by the boots.”

The boots on the ground for Heroes Memorial at Fort Adams is put together by Operation Stand Down Rhode Island and is to remember those killed in combat since the global war on terror began post-9/11.

Executive Director Erik Wallin says each boot is placard with a photo of the fallen, a description of where they came from, where they served, what branch they served in, and how they were killed.

“This is a very moving experience for I think everybody, whether you’ve served, whether you know someone who has served, whether you know someone who sadly might be amongst the fallen,” Wallin said.

The memorial also includes a new addition: the Invisible Scars of Wars Monument.

“We’ve included a memorial for those who have succumbed to the invisible scars of war. The veterans who came back from serving, but ultimately, whether it was substance abuse, mental health, PTSD, traumatic brain injuries, led to them taking their lives. While we don’t know each one of their names, it’s important to realize the casualties of war really continue long after the guns have subsided overseas.”

The memorial is open to the public at Fort Adams, which is located at 90 Fort Adams Drive in Newport on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and on Monday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

There is a ceremony for R.I. Gold Star families to place the boots of the 29 fallen soldiers on Friday at 6:30 p.m.

Categories: Newport, News, Rhode Island