New memorial at Veterans Park honors Marines' valor at 'The Halls of Montezuma' and beyond
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A Marine leaping over an artillery-damaged exterior wall of the Halls of Montezuma, bayonet in hand, is the latest statue added to the Lynn Stuart Pathway at Veterans Park & Athletic Complex in College Station.
The bronze statue was dedicated Wednesday during a ceremony honoring all Marines at the Mexican War Memorial site of the Brazos Valley Veterans Memorial. Wednesday's ceremony was on the 170th anniversary of the Battle of Chapultepec, a key two-day conflict during the Mexican-American War.
The life-sized statue by artist J. Payne Lara is the 10th to be completed along the Lynn Stuart Pathway, which is lined with statues honoring the service and sacrifice of U.S. soldiers who have fought in each of the nation's wars, along with the Texas Revolution. Eighteen statues are planned for the path.
Keynote speaker Gen. Michael Hagee, who retired as the 33rd commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps in 2006, said the statue "symbolizes to me all those men and women who have served and worn the cloth of this great nation."
"There has been a continuity of service for over 240 years in this country," Hagee said. "Young men and women, when asked to serve, step up. They don't know which war they're going to be asked to serve in, they don't know where it's going to be. It doesn't matter. They stand up and do what their country asked them to do, even when this country doesn't always support them."
Retired Lt. Randolph House, president of the Brazos Valley Veterans Memorial Board of Directors, said at the ceremony that the Mexican-American War was critical in defining the border between the United States and Mexico that remains today. In 1847, knowing that the capture of the Palacio Nacional would greatly disrupt the Mexican Army, Marines seized the enemy fortress just west of Mexico City during the Battle of Chapultepec, House said. Marines gained control of Chapultepec Castle -- better known as the "Halls of Montezuma," which House said the dedication site will be called -- on Sept. 13, 1847, after two days of battle. The Marines were given the honor of raising the American flag over the palace to mark their victory.
"The victory at the Halls of Montezuma remains a big part of the Marine Corps tradition immortalized in the opening line of The Marines' Hymn, House said.
Careful consideration was taken during the planning of the memorial statue so that the Marine's bayonet would not pose a risk to the public, House said. The statue places the tip of his bayonet more than 6 feet above the ground.
During his remarks Wednesday, Hagee read an excerpt from the diary of a young Marine during the Battle of Iwo Jima, noting that more than 1 million men and women have been killed in service of the United States because they were "willing to give up everything that was important."
Hagee said they do it because they believe in something "larger than themselves."
"It's not about them, and you know money can't buy that, and we can never lose that," Hagee said. "And that's why I think this park here is so important to deliver that message. And as long as we have this park, and as long as we have young people and older people visiting this, I don't think we will."
The Marines' Hymn was played by Brazos Brass at the conclusion of the ceremony, followed by taps and a rifle salute by American Legion Post 159.