Solomons Island is a place people love to visit. The shops and restaurants and beautiful locale situated on the Patuxent River are lauded not just by Southern Marylanders, but everyone throughout the state.
Unfortunately, many of those who come to Solomons, do not know that it also has an unheralded history of great service to our country.
During World War II, the epic clash that Pulitzer Prize winning author Studs Terkel called The Good War and what produced the greatest generation, according to Tom Brokaw, Solomons was home to the Amphibious Training Base. It was here that 68,000 troops trained before deploying to either the European or Pacific Theatres of War. They trained here to fight (and sadly some to die) in places such as North Africa, Guadalcanal, Sicily, Anzio, Iwo Jima and Normandy among others.
Last week, I was on hand to celebrate the troops who trained here at a ceremony called The Cradle of Invasion. We spent much of the day paying tribute to those who President Clinton once said saved the world.
This past General Assembly Session, I was approached by Calvert Commissioner Linda Kelley. Commissioner Kelley made a special trip to Annapolis to request that I sponsor a bond bill that would help the Calvert County Marine Museum Society realize their dream of building a statue commemorating the base and those who trained there. Other groups have also contributed to the effort to erect this statue. They include Washington Naval District, the Patuxent River Naval Air Station, the Naval Order of the United State, the Marine Corps Historical Company and the local community.
The statue, which will be the centerpiece of a memorial park on the Dowell peninsula at the entrance of the Solomons harbor, will be a magnificent, eight-foot bronze monument that will remind all who see it that great work was practiced here by our brave soldiers of the past.
Called On Watch, the statue depicts a soldier dressed in his uniform gripping binoculars. The total cost of the project is $100,000 and already more than $30,000 has been raised by World War II veterans and the local community.
Commissioner Kelley made her trek to Annapolis because she knows as I do that we are losing members of the greatest generation every day. It is imperative that we not only honor them now with this statue in the near-future and at the Cradle of Invasion ceremonies. The "On Watch" statue will also serve as a monument to our World War II veterans well after they have passed on.
Even the Academy Award winning actor Tom Hanks, star of the Oscar winning "Saving Private Ryan" and executive producer of Band of Brothers, supports this project writing in a letter the work you are doing to preserve the stories of the service and sacrifice of the men that made up the amphibious forces of WWII is important for all of us. Thank you for all you and your colleague are doing to help keep these memories alive.
It is vital that we remember, and memorialize the men and women who went to Europe and the Pacific to beat back the German and Japanese threat to the civilization we enjoy to this day. Thats why I was pleased to sponsor the legislation that will lead to the creation of the picturesque and poignant On Watch Statue.
If you would like to honor a veteran who served in World War II, you can purchase a tax deductible memorial brick that will surround the "On Watch" statue by going to http://www.calvertmarinemuseum.com and accessing the "On Watch" link or contact Sherrod Sturrock at the Calvert Marine Museum at (410) 326-2042).