E-Town Man Designs Gander Memorial
By Sharon Wright Johnson, Staff Writer
More than a year after 248 U.S. Army soldiers from Fort Campbell died in an air crash while returning from a Middle East peacekeeping mission, elegant slabs of black granite are being cut, polished and prepared to be delicately etched with each fallen soldier’s name, rank and assigned unit.
Overseeing each phase of construction on the monument, which is to be dedicated in a May 25
ceremony at the military base, is Elizabethtown memorialist Roy Keith Jr., a member of the Keith Monument Company family. His proposed design was chosen from 28 entries nationwide by a committee of soldiers and surviving family members.
“We were pleased,” said Keith, 33. “Projects like this in our industry don’t come up very often.” Keith submitted three designs in the invitation-only contest, ranging in price from $10,000 to $100,000. He hoped one would please the search committee in terms of its priorities – aesthetics, cost and construction time.
His designs became the three finalists in the selection process. The winning design, which has an estimated cost of $64,000, has a center slab etched with a kneeling soldier holding a downturned rifle, symbolic of death, and three figures in the background symbolizing the surviving families.
“They (the designs) were right on target in terms of what we wanted,” said Maureen Eastman of Hopkinsville, a member of the committee in charge of raising funds for the monument. “We all had kind of a feeling as to what we wanted to say. (The final design) is very, very moving and says everything we wanted it to.”
The committee, which began its project in January, has collected $35,000 toward its $75,000 goal. The monument, measuring 23 feet by 11-½ feet, will be erected in Four Campbell’s main post area amount 248 saplings donated by the Canadian government. The blocks of stone must be a foot in width, without veins, cracks or other blemishes. Keith is now deciding fine points, such as the style of lettering to be used and how to arrange the inscriptions.
Keith said it will be a struggle to complete the monument by the May 25th deadline, which is seven months earlier that the date originally advertised. The dedication ceremony was moved both to commemorate Memorial Day and to coincide with the retirement of the base commander who was in charge at the time of the accident.
Keith believes the publicity he will gain from the project will be worth the harried effort and the estimated $3,000 to $4,000 he spent in compiling proposals for the contest.