As far back as the Civil War a symbol of a fallen soldier has covered the battlefields. Until the days of actual helmets a soldier’s cap was used on top of the rifle, stuck in the ground. Today’s salute to the fallen soldier is also known as the Battlefield Cross. It is a symbolic replacement of a cross on the battlefield or at the base camp for a soldier who has been killed. It is made up of a soldier’s rifle stuck into the ground or into the soldier’s boots, a helmet on top and dog tags hanging from the rifle.
The helmet and identification tags signify the fallen soldiers, their name never to be forgotten. The inverted rifle with bayonet signals a time for prayer, a break in the action to pay tribute to our friend. The combat boots, worn and dirty, represents the final march of the soldier’s last battle. After a set period of time, the memorial is respectfully dismantled, with the components being return to the Unit for appropriate disposition.
The Battlefield Cross itself is not an official military honor but it does play a part in the memorial ceremony as a visible reminder of the fallen soldier, especially when done at the home base. Friends of the Fallen Soldier can have a sense of closure when paying tribute to this soldier while in Base Camp which helps each soldier move on with daily life in the warzone.
The Lapeer Heritage Museum is currently taking part in the 50th Commemoration of The Vietnam War by displaying several items loaned by the Lapeer County Vietnam Veterans. The display will be changing during this time of tribute to these veterans and the men from Lapeer County who died as more items are added to the cases. Currently on display is the Battlefield Cross on loan from David Hoffman. He uses this symbol of a fallen soldier for several ceremonies and other tributes he performs.
Remember to thank a Veteran.