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War memorial represents bond between Cumberland County teen and D-Day survivor

Christopher Adam won the Eagle Scout National Project of the Year for "Liberation Pointe." It's his friendship with Ray Wallace which means more.

CARLISLE, Pa. — When Christopher Adam was younger, he would love going to the holiday parades in Harrisburg throughout the year. The pomp and circumstance of the marching bands around Thanksgiving, or the bagpipes around St. Patrick's Day, always was a yearly favorite. What kept him coming back though were the veterans.

Every year, the local Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter would have heroes of generations ago ride along the parade route in an open Jeep. Chris and his family would come across the Susquehanna River from their home in Hampden Township, Cumberland County every year to see and honor those vets. 

Over the years, the number of World War II veterans started getting smaller, but there was always one who would salute the crowd and wave as he was driving by. 

His name was Ray Wallace, and one day during the summer of 2018, Christopher Adam called him up. Their relationship would lead to a war memorial so impressive, the National Eagle Scout Association recently named it its Service Project of the Year.

"The sacrifices these guys made is such an unimaginable price. We can't ever put a dollar amount on it. We can't even fathom it," Chris said. "This is the least I can do to honor their sacrifices and honor what they've done for us."

Credit: Christopher Adam

Christopher's memorial, called 'Liberation Pointe', stands outside the U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center in Carlisle. It was made to honor the 75th anniversary of D-Day, as a way to not only pay tribute to the soldiers who stormed Normandy on June 6, 1944, but educate his peers who don't know much about World War II.

It started in his 8th grade history class, when he says his teacher asked about D-Day and only three students raised their hands knowing what it was. At the time, Chris was about to start work on his scouting project to earn the rank of Eagle Scout, and thought constructing a full-sized memorial was the best path forward.

"People in my generation don't understand the sacrifices they went through and the things they did," Chris said.

He went to work designing the memorial using Legos. Christopher then raised nearly $45,000 which went towards funding two bronze, life-sized statues of American soldiers landing on Omaha Beach, supplied by Art Research Enterprises of Lancaster. Christopher raised the money by traveling to dozens of VFW and American Legion posts in Cumberland, Dauphin, Perry, and York Counties. 

Credit: WPMT

The rest of the project was completed largely through donations and Christopher's own work. He learned how to mold metal parts together, donated by KBM Enterprises, to make a replica of an anti-tank hedgehog, which stands tall next to the two life-like soldier statues. Pyramid Construction donated materials to help Chris put together a walkway around the exhibit. Black granite was donated by Pennsylvania Granite Corp. in Chester County, and Chris learned how to polish the stone down himself with the help of Down East Fabrications of Mechanicsburg. 

Harrisburg-based company Romberger Memorials then helped Christopher engrave, by hand, the names of the five beaches allied forces took on D-Day: Omaha, Utah, Sword, Juno, and Gold. 

Liberation Pointe is not only a memorial. It's a museum. On the outside of the pentagon-shaped fixture are stories of local soldiers who fought on D-Day. Some died during the invasion. Others, like Ray Wallace, are still alive today to tell the stories of what happened.

"It brought back some memories," Wallace said of the first time he saw Liberation Pointe. "Some good, some bad."

Credit: WPMT

Mr. Wallace, Christopher says, was the catalyst who helped get his project off the ground. When they spoke during the summer of 2018, it opened up the floodgates of ideas of what Liberation Pointe could be. By November 2019, 75 years after the D-Day invasion, the memorial was unveiled.

Ray Wallace was among those in attendance. Chris decided to dedicate Liberation Pointe in his honor. Wallace, who currently lives with family in Columbia, Lancaster County, was a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division. His drop point on D-Day put him 20 miles from his target, and he was captured and taken prison in a Nazi POW camp, where he stayed until the war ended. 

"He was 17 when he signed up for the [82nd] Airborne, 18 when he fought on D-Day. That's how old I am now," Chris said of Mr. Wallace. "I can't imagine many people who would go out and do the things he did."

The National Eagle Scout Association agreed, and was so impressed by Christopher's scout project, it awarded him with the 2021 Glenn A. and Melinda W. Adams National Eagle Scout Service Project of the Year Award. He is the first from Pennsylvania to ever win. 

The recognition took both Chris and Ray to the Pennsylvania State Capitol, where the two were honored on the floor of the House of Representatives to a standing ovation from state lawmakers. 

At 97 years old, the honor was overwhelming for Mr. Wallace.

"My new friends are the most valuable possession I have," he said, then motioning to Christopher. "And these are my good friends."

Two friends, 80 years apart. The youngest generation showing the 'Greatest Generation' that they can be pretty great too. 

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