Guardian of Defenders Monument honors veterans of the global war on terrorism

CLAYMONT, Delaware (WPVI) -- Two former military chaplains have erected a new monument that is dedicated to those who died in the Global War on Terrorism.

The new Guardian of Defenders Monument was unveiled on September 11.

"It was a very emotional moment," said Fr. John Gayton, pastor of Holy Rosary church. "A lot of people became very emotional."

A wonderful moment, that was over nine years in the making.

The Guardian of Defenders Monument is the vision of Retired Navy Chaplin, Commander John Gayton and Retired Army Chaplin, Major Donald Van Alstyne. Both served in Iraq and Afghanistan, each earning a Bronze Star for their combat service.

"We're very, very touched and very understanding of the pain, the loss of a buddy or a friend, you know the continuing hole inside," said VanAlstyne. "We needed someplace to be. Someplace to heal. Someplace to remember them. Someplace to honor them ."

That place, this monument, sits on the grounds of the historic Grubb-Worth Mansion on Philadelphia Pike.

"When someone is killed we have a memorial for them where their rifle is inverted and their boots are placed there and their dog tags and their helmet or Kevlar.

And then we have a service and everyone goes up to say their goodbyes to these elements," said Gayton.

So the angel is the Guardian of Defenders who comes to lift them up. And on the back of the monument, there is a psalm that speaks about the Lord will lift me up and save me from my enemies.

On either side are the symbols of all the armed forces, so the seals of each of the five branches. Plus the seal from the 9-11 disaster that started the Global War on Terrorism.

"In the front is the dedication to all those who served and gave the ultimate sacrifice for their nation. On the back is that psalm. And then there are 21 pillars. That's for a 21 gun salute," said Gayton. "And on each one of them will be a plaque with a rifleman giving a salute with a dedication from somebody who gives the donation to have one of those 21 pillars."

Father Gayton mortgaged his home to kick start funding for the monument and donations are still being taken to pay for the monument and its perpetual care. All funds are handled by the Guardian of Defenders Foundation.
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