- Associated Press - Sunday, May 29, 2016

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) - Someday, Barbara Morris says with a hint of sadness, Winfred won’t have to make more crosses.

Until then, she’ll continue to make sure the men and women who died in service to the United States are not forgotten.

For the eighth year, Barbara and Winfred Morris have seen their field of crosses, flags and memories grow.

More than 500 simple crosses face Sycamore Dairy Road in front of Fort Bragg Harley Davidson.

The couple long ago ran out of room in their Fayetteville yard, where the memorial began. For a couple of years, it found a home at a neighborhood church.

Recently, a dozen volunteers, most with military connections, began converting the sandy soil into a silent memorial ground.

“It’s gotten a little bit bigger this year,” says 76-year-old Barbara Morris as the crosses were spaced, row after row. “I wish that wasn’t true.”

A couple of years ago, she stopped at the dealership to share her vision and ask if the memorial might move to an open field in front of the building.

“I had some pictures of what we had been doing,” Morris says. “I had only shown Ken (Vitulli, the dealership’s general manager) a couple of them, and he said, ‘When would you like to start?’ “

She can’t recall who the first cross was for.

“There have been so many,” she says. “But I know every name out here. I know who they were, and I know how they died.”

Morris knows the stories of their families, too.

Widows who have curled up to sleep at the cross of their husbands, just to be near them once more; soldiers who crack a beer and “share” it with a lost buddy by pouring it on the ground.

The lieutenant who wept openly at the crosses of men he led in battle in Afghanistan.

Morris can relate to the fear and uncertainty of a soldier’s wife. Her husband served two tours in Vietnam before retiring in 1978.

Now nearing 80, Winfred Morris faithfully crafts the simple wooden crosses each time his wife has a new name.

“I’m glad he’s here,” she says. “I couldn’t do it. I’m scared to death of his power saw.”

Each year, a few of the older crosses are replaced. They get worn or split and, “I won’t be having anything ratty-looking,” she says.

As the crosses are secured, children from JFK Chapel, the Morris’s home church, scurry to place small American flags between them.

“Their dad is a chaplain,” says mom Megan Schafer as her kids Emma, Isaiah and Jonah scamper like squirrels at play. Barbara Morris watches them for a minute, and she smiles.

“It’s nice to have them here,” she says.

Through June 1, mourners will come and go, some leaving souvenirs. It’s not unusual for crosses to become adorned with sunglasses, T-shirts or hand-written notes.

And, Barbara Morris hopes, some will find peace as they leave.

“I feel like maybe I’ve helped a little bit,” she says. “I think it’s been good for people to share their grief.”

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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