Rhiley Anderson stood next to his step-grandmother on a hot Monday afternoon as the two looked over the dozens of smiling faces on a panel.
All of them are no longer alive, some died years ago. One, who died in 2014 stood out to Rhiley.
“I never really thought about it until just now,” he tells his step-grandmother.
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The men and women started dying years before Rhiley, 12, was even born.
“They had a family,” said Rhiley. “Imagine how the family felt.”
Rhiley’s reaction is exactly the intention the traveling Remembering Our Fallen Memorial, which is currently on display in the parking lot across from the Casper College Gateway Center building through Aug. 4.
There are more than 5,100 names and faces on the towers, just 70 percent of the service people who have died since the start of the War on Terror in 2001. Most died on deployment, but those who died from PTSD-related injuries and training exercises are included as well.
“Every name I read makes me grateful my son came home,” said Rhiley’s step-grandmother, Sally Slocum. Her son was deployed for 18 months with the Wyoming National Guard soon after the war started. “He turned 20 in Iraq,” she said.
On-site representative Noala Fritz says part of the mission of the exhibit is to humanize the military.
“It’s a wonderful education tool,” she said. The memorial is one of two traveling the country. It was designed and organized by a Gold Star family in Nebraska and is funded by donations.
Each fallen veteran is pictured in a military operation and at home as a civilian.
“So often we think of our military as “Rambo” and with big guns, but here you see kids who were just like us. They bagged your groceries or babysat your kids. It shows the personalities that make up our military,” said Fritz.
She says often people who see the exhibit are overwhelmed. “They say ‘there are so many’ or ‘they are so young.'”
“Those pictures, they draw you in,” she said.
The memorial is open to the public 24/7 through Wednesday, Aug. 4, at Casper College. A service with Governor Mark Gordon is scheduled for Monday, July 27, at 5:30 p.m.