Family photos of U.S. soldiers killed in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are arriving at Prospect Hill Cemetery in North York.
"It's very emotional," said Jack Sommer. "We received a photo of a soldier as a kid and he was standing beside the Vietnam (Veterans Memorial) Wall. There's another photo of a (deceased) soldier playing soldier at 8 years old."
However, Sommer, the cemetery's managing partner, said he and his staff also have a "steel resolve" to complete its black granite digital monument that honors the memories of soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan war zones.
Family photos: Work on the 10-foot-by-12 foot monument began about two weeks ago, with plans to unveil and
activate it on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. The time for the unveiling event has yet to be determined, Sommer said.
Once the new monument's kiosk is activated, the public will be able to look up specific soldiers.
Sommer said he is working with Washington-based American Gold Star Mothers Inc. -- which serves families who lost relatives to war -- to let families nationwide know that they can submit images and information for the digital monument.
The cemetery has already received more than two dozen photos from families from York, California, Utah and Texas, he said.
"This is a very unique monument that lets the families show us their stories and show us the (loved ones) they lost," Sommer said. "They're going to have a memorial to show a person they're very proud of."
The design: The monument, which features a digital kiosk with a large monitor, will show images -- on a rotating bases -- of the soldiers.
The kiosk would include information about the soldiers' births, deaths, hometowns and places of service, as well as their prom pictures, sports photos and family albums.
A crew from M.J. Delp Construction of Dover is building the monument near the cemetery's Afghanistan flag memorial and on the same spot the cemetery retired and buried -- on Dec. 4, 2010 -- 4,427 American flags honoring the memories of soldiers who died in Iraq.
Livewire Digital of West Manchester Township is developing and donating the software, programming, user interface and database services needed for the kiosk.
Gamlet Inc. of Manchester Township, is donating the software, metal fixtures and expertise needed for the project.
The monitor, being shipped in from California, is sponsored by Military and Commercial Fasteners Corp. of Emigsville, Sommer said.
The project costs $70,000, but $40,000 has already been raised through donations from local companies, individuals and area veterans groups, Sommer said.
He said he is confident the cemetery will be able to raise the remaining $30,000 with continued help from the local community.
"It's so York that if you come up with a good idea or something that people believe in, companies and individuals will be quick to get involved and make it happen," Sommer said.
--Reach Eyana Adah McMillan at firstname.lastname@example.org.