PORT ANGELES — Every face tells a story.
Nearly 5,000 stories are being told this weekend in a traveling photographic war memorial on display through Monday at the Captain Joseph House in Port Angeles.
The national “Remembering Our Fallen” memorial honors U.S. service members who have died in combat since 9/11.
Each Tribute Tower contains three double-sided, weather-resistant panels with military and civilian photos of the fallen heroes, with information about who they were and when they died — name, rank, age, hometown, date and place of sacrifice.
“It’s at that moment when the panel is hung that I feel the towers come alive,” said Noala Fritz of Nebraska, a Gold Star Mother and Remembering Our Fallen spokeswoman.
The free exhibit, which began Friday, is open for viewing at all hours until sundown Monday. A formal closing ceremony is planned for 4:23 p.m. Monday at Captain Joseph House, 1108 S. Oak St.
It is the only place the exhibit will be available on the North Olympic Peninsula.
All but four of the 30 towers are positioned on South Oak Street in front of the Captain Joseph House.
The Captain Joseph House is being renovated by Gold Star Mother Betsy Reed Schultz of Port Angeles as the country’s only Family to Family program extending the continuum of care to Gold Star Families.
The Captain Joseph House Foundation will provide a week-long, all-expense-paid respite for Gold Star Families and the chance to connect on a personal level in a home-away-from-home setting.
Both sides of each panel on the 10-foot-tall Tribute Towers contain images of 28 fallen service members dived into seven rows of four. A large photograph of the service-member in military garb is juxtaposed with a smaller image of the hero in his or her natural element.
One display on tower No. 26 inside the Captain Joseph House memorializes Army Cpt. Joseph Schultz, a 36-year-old Green Beret who was killed while serving in Afghanistan on May 29, 2011.
The larger image on the panel shows Joseph Schultz, for whom the Captain Joseph House was named, dressed for combat holding an assault weapon in his left hand.
The “ordinary life” image shows Joseph Schultz wearing a tie standing next to his mother, Betsy Reed Schultz.
“It’s a beautiful day here in Port Angeles,” Betsy-Reed Schultz said during a sun-splashed opening ceremony for the exhibit.
“It’s a beautiful day for all of us to take time to remember and pay our respects and honor the many, many, many men and women who have given their lives so we can have beautiful days like this in America.”
The opening ceremony included a singing of America the Beautiful by the Port Angeles High School choir.
American Legion Post No. 29 provided a flag line, bagpiper Rick McKenzie performed a summons, singer Amanda Bacon sang the national anthem and chaplain Norm Goodin of American Legion Post 29 delivered an invocation and other remarks.
After the ceremony, the crowd dispersed among the Tribute Towers and toured the Captain Joseph House.
Jeff Thayer of Port Angeles was checked the panels for fallen comrades. He was the lone survivor of an improvised explosive device attack in Afghanistan.
“It’s overwhelming to me,” Thayer said of the exhibit.
Thayer, a 25-year Army veteran, was serving in the Washington National Guard when the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 occurred.
He and others in the National Guard were called into active duty after 9/11. For Thayer, it meant four tours of duty in four years.
During the ceremony, Fritz reflected on the service of her son, 1st Lt. Jacob Fritz, who died after a raid by enemy combatants in Karbala, Iraq, on Jan. 20, 2007.
“I know Jacob is smiling and at peace among his fellow soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom,” Noala Fritz said.
The towers were begun by Bill and Evonne Williams of Nebraska in 2010. The first memorial in Omaha, Neb., was dedicated to Nebraska’s fallen.
After realizing the impact the display had on the general public, the Williamses agreed to expand the project to other states to remind people of the cost of freedom while helping to lessen the grief of the families, according to a Remembering Our Fallen news release.
After completing 19 state memorials, the focus shifted to one national memorial.
The national exhibit has been stationed on the edge of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool in Washington, D.C.
Guest speaker Army Lt. Col. Matt James told the audience that a main tenet of military service is to “make life safer and better for all those we love.”
“That is why we stand here today and not simply encourage but demand you live life to the absolute fullest,” James said, before listing six service members who made the ultimate sacrifice.
“Having known all these men, I assure you they lived life to the fullest and want and require you to do the same.”
Schultz thanked the many volunteers who had helped the Captain Joseph House over the years, everyone from age 4 to 93.
“It wouldn’t happen without this community,” Schultz said.
Joe Borden, vice president of the Captain Joseph House Foundation and a 22-year Army veteran who served in Vietnam, said it was an “honor to be here with these towers.”
“I visited the Vietnam wall and I cried,” said Borden, who helped assemble the towers Thursday.
“When I finished yesterday, I cried again. It’s an honor to see all these young faces and to salute them.
“Remember, we are here because they did their job,” Borden added.
“They did what they were supposed to do.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].