HomePalmyra News“Boots, Helmet and Rifle” sculpture at Palmyra War Memorial to see first...

“Boots, Helmet and Rifle” sculpture at Palmyra War Memorial to see first Memorial Day

Since the Palmyra War Memorial’s construction nearly 30 years ago, the goal has been to add a statue depicting the makeshift grave marker for fallen used on foreign battlefields.

The “Boots, Helmet and Rifle” statue represents the makeshift grave marker used on foreign battlefields dating back to World War I. The newly-added statue has been permanently attached to the Palmyra War Memorial in time for Palmyra’s Memorial Day Observance scheduled to take place Monday, May 29 at the memorial’s location on Cinnaminson and Parry Avenues.

Since the Palmyra War Memorial’s construction nearly 30 years ago, the War Memorial Committee has wanted a statue representing the makeshift grave marker for fallen soldiers used on foreign battlefields dating back to World War I. The newly added “Boots, Helmet and Rifle” sculpture will finally see its first Memorial Day at the Palmyra War Memorial on Monday, May 29.

Tom McElwee, president of the War Memorial Committee, said the goal was to add the statue shortly after the memorial opened, but the funding just wasn’t there. He said the idea lay dormant for years, but a year ago the committee decided it was finally time to bring it to life. Through a combination of funding from the borough and donations through residents, they commissioned a company to create the statue.

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McElwee said they thought they would have it in time for last Memorial Day, but due to delays in production, the committee was forced to use a mock-up of the sculpture at last year’s Memorial Day Observance ceremony.

Despite the delays, the sculpture was permanently attached to the memorial at the end of April in time for this Memorial Day. The memorial features four stone obliques and brass plates that list the names of the 1,196 men and women from Palmyra who served in the armed forces in World War I, World War II, Vietnam, Korea, Bosnia, Lebanon, the Persian Gulf, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. The sculpture now sits at the center of the memorial with four spotlights illuminating the piece at night.

“It’s just something that enhances the War Memorial itself instead of just the granite obliques,” McElwee said.

Bryan Norcross, undersheriff of Burlington County and a member of the War Memorial committee, said the memorial serves an important purpose in the community by honoring the sacrifices that come with serving and beyond deployed. He said he knows about these firsthand having served in the Navy.

He said a t-shirt with an image of the “Boots, Helmet and Rifle” sculpture helped fund the purchase of the piece and will continue to fund maintenance and future projects at the location as well.

“[The sculpture] signifies the unofficial battle cross for soldiers,” Norcross said. “It represents the monument well.”

Norcross said the shirts will be available for residents to purchase during the Memorial Day observance at the memorial as well as on the War Memorial Committee’s Facebook page.

Mayor Michelle Arnold described the sculpture as a “worthwhile and worthy” tribute to the men and women who have served the United States and given citizens the freedom they have today. She said even to this day, she becomes emotional every time she drives by the memorial.

On Monday, May 29, the borough is scheduled to observe Memorial Day with a ceremony at the War Memorial on Parry and Cinnaminson avenues at 10 a.m.

McElwee said this year’s service is expected to feature Palmyra resident and Naval Capt. Christopher Bailey. He said wreaths honoring Palmyra’s military heroes will also be placed on the memorial during the ceremony.

Arnold described the annual event as a solemn occasion for the community to come together.

“For a small town, we always get a very strong of outpouring of support for this event,” Arnold said.


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