War on Terrorism memorial for veterans nears completion
By Joshua Roberts
The brother of a Marine killed in Afghanistan in 2014 said a three-year effort to erect a new war memorial in Paducah is in the "closing phases."
Nathan Torian, a Paducah firefighter and the younger brother of late Marine Master Sgt. Aaron Torian, has been working since his brother's death to place a Global War on Terrorism Memorial at Dolly McNutt Plaza.
The fundraising effort has met its $65,000 goal and the memorial is nearly ready for placement.
"It was going to be Nov. 11 (Veterans Day), but with the weather and everything, it was hard to get the concrete work done in that timeframe," said Nathan, who has been with the fire department for nearly 14 years.
"The memorial itself - the monument - is built. ... It's ready to be erected."
The new target for completing the project is sometime this spring, with a public unveiling possibly taking place on Memorial Day.
Nathan said the War on Terrorism monument honors those who "gave the ultimate sacrifice."
Two people close to him are among that group. Brother Aaron, 36, was killed Feb. 15, 2014, in Helemand Province, Afghanistan. Marine Sgt. Christopher T. Heflin, of Reidland, a high school friend, was killed Nov. 16, 2004, in Iraq. He was 26.
Nathan described his monument motivation in a GoFundMe account created last year to raise money.
"No words can describe how much Paducah needs to memorialize those who served, along with those who gave everything," he wrote.
Nathan started the memorial effort about two months after Aaron died.
"In dealing with all of the military and the Marine Corps, being in Arlington (National Cemetery) and Dover (Air Force Base), where we had to go to receive his remains, there was so much outreach to our family from everybody, from people we didn't even know," he said.
"I just felt like everybody who served in the Global War on Terror needed to have something to memorialize them."
The fundraising drive, Nathan said, has been backed by $15,000 contributions each from city and county government, and numerous private donations.
Additionally, the GoFundMe account has raised $8,620 from 130 people thus far.
"Aaron was a great Marine and mentor to me," wrote Keith Nelson on the page. "I'm thankful for the opportunity I had to serve alongside him. Semper Fi."
"Make the monument strong, like these men, America's best," added Brian Fitzgerald. "It will always represent."
"Former Army mortarman with two tours in Afghanistan. I think this is an outstanding idea. You've got my money," Clayton Botle said on the page.
Nathan said many people have also contributed directly to the Operation Enduring Freedom Memorial Fund at Paducah Bank. The fund remains open.
"One hundred percent of the funds will be applied to the build and maintenance of the memorial," he said.
The War on Terrorism monument would join World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War memorials at Dolly McNutt.
"People will see site work happening soon," Nathan said.
Nathan said Aaron was his best friend, and he often thinks of his fallen brother.
"He was very hard working and very focused on anything that was in front of him that he was doing, whether it was sports, his job, all the way up to the military," he said. "He was very driven."
Nathan said he looks forward to a completed memorial honoring Aaron, Heflin and many brave others who served.
"It's going to be exhilarating to see the finished product," he said.