Loudoun County has awarded scholarships of $500 each to three 2022 high school graduates for their work writing about the history of the war monuments at the Loudoun County courthouse.
Guided by feedback from former county supervisor, Shenandoah University professor and Air Force veteran Travis Sample, graduates Lindsey Somers, Max Villegas and Will Murphy wrote “The Important History of The Brave American Veterans Who Sacrificed Their Lives from 1775 To The Current Date for American Freedom,” a history of the monuments ranging from the Revolutionary War monument the Spirit of Loudoun, to the monuments’ most recent additions for American service members who died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those memorials, they wrote, “stand as testaments to the will of the people, as a representation of those who died in defense of America’s freedom.”
The Important History of The Brave American Veterans Who Sacrificed Their Lives from 1775 to the Current Date for American Freedom
By Will Murphy, Max Villegas and Lindsey Somers
“Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” the three unalienable rights American citizens wake up to and are guaranteed. These freedoms have and will remain the true pillar of American government, but these freedoms did not come free. They were fought for and guarded by the strong men and women of the nation who not only served to protect these rights, but gave their lives in the process. Located in Loudoun County VA, downtown Leesburg is home to a collection of war memorials honoring the veterans who served in the United States military. Proudly displayed on the Loudoun County Courthouse lawn, four monuments stand in remembrance of America’s heroes.
Located on the north side of the courthouse lawn, a sculpture entitled “Spirit of Loudoun” stands in honor of the two-thousand Loudoun County Residents who fought in the American Revolution. The fight to break free from the British Monarchy officially began in April of 1775 with the “shot heard round the world” at the Battles of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts and concluded in September of 1783 with the signing of the treaty in Paris. At the war’s end 4,435 men had lost their lives fighting for America’s independence. Dedicated in 2015, Jay Hail Carpenter sculpted a memorial depicting the heartfelt resolve of the colonists at the time. A patriot stands with his wife and son, saying goodbye as he departs from home to contribute to join the fight. Surrounding “Spirit of Loudoun” is a ring of engraved bricks, purchased by Loudoun County residents. Each brick is personally engraved to honor ancestors, family members, and others who served in the military. Proudly displayed, the statue states “1776,” the year of the unanimous signing of the Declaration of Independence, where the freedoms of American democracy saw fruition:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
World War I
In 1922, a World War I memorial was dedicated in honor of ‘The Great War.’ The memorial states, “Their bodies are buried in peace, but their names liveth for evermore.” It includes the names of veterans who served between 1917 and 1918. Originally, the names of veterans were segregated by race; the white veterans’ names listed above the Black veterans on a separate section of the plaque. In 2020, Loudoun County Supervisor Mike Turner proposed to desegregate the names. The Board decided on redesigning the plaque, ensuring the names be listed together as a unit.
By segregating the names of veterans based on race, the plaque contradicted the entire message of the memorial. Now, the plaque supports freedom in the context of honoring all individuals, regardless of race or ethnic origin, values cherished by the veterans of Loudoun County.
World War I, lasting from 1914 to 1918, was a war fought between two alliances: the Central and Allied powers. Technological advancements resulting from the Industrial Revolution made World War I more brutal than any other conflict that had come before. The catalyst of the war
was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, who was killed by a Serbian nationalist. Austria-Hungary and Serbia had increased tensions during the early 20th century regarding nationalism and military alliances. In the beginning, the U.S. maintained neutrality, but after Germany sank U.S. merchant and passenger ships, the U.S. declared war in April 1917. On both sides, over nine million soldiers died and 20 million soldiers were wounded. The U.S. lost over 100,000 soldiers due to the war.
World War II/Korea
Dedicated in 1956, the World War II and Korean War memorial stands engraved with the names of seventy-one men lost in combat– 67 from World War II and 4 from the Korean War. The south face of the pillar illustrates a scene of a fallen soldier being escorted by an angel; accompanied by a fellow soldier and weeping woman, mourning as they say goodbye.
Still reeling from the Great Depression, the United States entered World War II in December 1941, following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor was considered an official declaration of war from the Axis Powers. The United States were forced into involvement, joining the Allied Powers and contributing to the war effort. At the war’s end in 1945, 405,399 American soldiers had died in combat.
The Korean War began in 1950 after soldiers from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (more commonly known as North Korea) invaded the pro-Western Republic of Korea (more commonly known as South Korea). Following World War II, nations around the world were on edge, fearing the spread of communism. In July, 1950, America entered the war in support of South Korea, hoping to combat North Korea’s efforts. The war saw its end in 1953, with the death of 36,574 Americans.
The Vietnam War pillar was installed on Veterans Day in 1988. The pillar has 12 names of Loudoun County soldiers who died engraved in the stone. In fact, near the pillar, a time capsule was buried and is to be opened on Veterans Day in 2088.
The Vietnam War was a controversial conflict, lasting from roughly 1950-1975, although the conflict started long before the war began. The U.S. was allied with Ngo Dinh Diem, leader of South Vietnam, who was fighting against Ho Chi Minh, leader of North Vietnam. The U.S. supported South Vietnam, as U.S. officials such as President Eisenhower believed communism would spread to South Vietnam via the domino theory (if one Southeast Asian country falls to communism, then the surrounding countries will follow). As the war continued, the U.S. increased its involvement in the war, sending more troops over to Vietnam. Unfortunately, the death toll began to rise amongst both sides of the war. Once the war ended, an estimated 58,000 U.S. soldiers died while serving, over one million North Vietnamese fighters died, 250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers died, and over two million civilians died (both sides of the war). Roughly seven million veterans who were alive during the conflict are still alive today, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. Despite the controversy, the Vietnam War is remembered as one of the longest and most brutal conflicts in U.S. History.
The Iraq and Afghanistan memorial holds special sentimental value because of how recent this addition was. With this plaque being added in 2007, the four names on this pillar, carved in bronze, serve as a reminder that there are currently brave men and women on the front lines protecting our country. These four men left behind friends and family in the name of valor and virtue. This monument ensures their sacrifice will be remembered.
These memorials stand as testaments to the will of the people, as a representation of those who died in defense of America’s freedom. Over 1.2 million soldiers have died serving in the United States military; however, that number is estimated to be closer to 2.2 million. Yes… all gave some, and some gave all. To the hundreds of thousands of brave and beautiful souls who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to defend America’s freedom, please know that you are cherished, loved and truly respected by all Americans.
“From these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the Earth.” – The Gettysburg Address, November 19, 1863.