August 2015: Guest Essay

A call to ‘Honor the Mountain’

A rendering of the proposed 10th Mountain Division Monument in Thompson Park’s Tower Square, Watertown.

A rendering of the proposed 10th Mountain Division Monument in Thompson Park’s Tower Square, Watertown.

By Gilbert H. Pearsall Jr.

Recently, a group of Northern New York residents and business leaders formed a committee, the North Country Honors the Mountain, to build a monument honoring the sacrifice and service of the soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division and the Fort Drum civilian workforce. It will also commemorate the 30th anniversary of the reactivation of the division in 1985 and the 70th anniversary of the 10th Mountain Division’s role in the allied victory of World War II. The city of Watertown has graciously donated its premier location to erect this monument: Tower Square in Thompson Park, an Olmstead-designed park.

It is the committee’s intent to restore Tower Square to its former glory and make it the crown jewel and centerpiece of the park with this fitting tribute to the men and women of the 10th Mountain Division who have sacrificed so much for our freedom.

The committee believes that building this off-post monument is important for Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division. The March 20 “We Love Fort Drum” rally held at Watertown’s Jefferson Community College sent an important signal to Washington, D.C., of the north country’s unwavering support and dedication to Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division. But we need something more lasting. In the event of any future Defense Department base closure considerations, this monument in historic Thompson Park will serve as a permanent symbol of the community’s support for years to come.

The North Country Honors the Mountain committee plans to unveil the monument in July 2016.

The committee has commissioned Susan Grant Raymond of Boulder, Colo., to create the bronze reliefs for the monument. Susan has a long history with the association and sculpted the “Military Mountaineers” statute in 1991 depicting a World War II-era 10th Mountain Division soldier using a rope to assist a climbing 10th Mountain soldier outfitted in modern gear. In 2012, Susan created the Fallen Warrior monument, a two-part monument that tells a story of honor, camaraderie and humanity while depicting two themes: honoring the fallen and hope for the future. Both monuments are located at Memorial Park in front of division headquarters on Fort Drum.

Local businesses are designing and building the monument site at Tower Square. GYMO Architecture, Engineering & Land Surveying serves as the site architect and construction manager. Construction will be completed by Lawman Heating and Cooling, Purcell Construction, VETCO and Jake’s Lawn Care and Landscaping. Many materials will be supplied by local business like Jefferson Concrete Corp., Vespa Sand and Stone, T.F. Wright & Sons Granite Foundry and Taylor Concrete.

CheckPoint Graphics is providing marketing, VideoWorx is providing video, DOCO Quick Print is providing printing and Lamar Advertising will provide billboard services.

The new monument at Thompson Park will have four sides made of granite and shaped as a mountain rising from a 35-foot diameter pad at the center of Tower Square in the middle of the park. Three bronze reliefs will be mounted on three sides of the granite monument depicting the division’s major historical periods: the Mountain Soldiers of World War II in Camp Hale, Colo., and Italy from 1943 to 1945; the re-activation of the 10th Mountain Division and its participation on contingency operations in Hurricane Andrew, Somalia, Haiti, Horn of Africa, Saudi Arabia, Bosnia and Kosovo from 1985 to 2001; and the division’s participation in Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom from 2001 to present.

The division unit patch will be etched on the fourth side of the monument and be available for the 50th anniversary of the reactivation. Additionally, the committee is inviting the major local communities of the city of Watertown, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties and Fort Drum to create a time capsule that includes items representing these communities and businesses. It will be buried in front of the fourth side as part of the monument unveiling ceremony in July 2016. The intent is to unearth the time capsule upon the celebration of the 10th Mountain Division’s 50th anniversary of its reactivation in 2035.

The committee is in the middle of a fundraising campaign to raise $400,000 to build the monument. As part of this campaign, the committee is soliciting corporate and organizational sponsorships. Major sponsors donating more than $2,500 will be acknowledged on a donor’s plaque at the Tower Square site. Major local corporate and business sponsors so far include Samaritan Medical Center, Slack Chemical, New York Air Brake, ReEnergy Black River, Watertown Savings Bank, Otis Technology, Benefit Services Group, Community Bank, Norstar Development, Key Bank, Northern New York-Fort Drum Chapter of the Association of the United States Army, National Association of the 10th Mountain Division Association, as well as other business and individual donations.

Thanks to a grant from the Northern New York Community Foundation, another major sponsor, individual donations to the Honor the Mountain monument will be matched dollar for dollar.

Individuals, business and organizations that wish to support can make checks payable to the Northern New York Community Foundation with “Honor the Mountain Monument Fund” noted on the memo line. You can mail your tax-exempt sponsorship/contribution to the foundation at: Northern New York Community Foundation, 120 Washington St,. Suite 400, Watertown, NY 13601.

Credit card donations can also be made at nnycf.org. Click on the “donate” button on the left side of the page. Please indicate your donation to the “Honor the Mountain Monument Fund” in the “add special instructions to the seller” section on the second page of the donation instructions.

Visit HonorTheMounain.com to learn more about the project or to donate.

Gilbert H. Pearsall Jr. is a retired Army lieutenant colonel who served with the 10th Mountain Divison at Fort Drum and former director of human resources for Johnson Newspaper Corp. He lives in Carthage with his wife.