FORT LEE, Va. (July 13, 2017) -- Seven heartwarming letters penned by Gold Star mothers, parents and wives from the local area were singled out as “the most meaningful contributions” to a Centennial time capsule during a late afternoon dedication ceremony Monday at the Lee Club.

“These letters guarantee the memories of their fallen heroes will survive into the next century,” noted Maj. Gen. Paul C. Hurley Jr., CASCOM and Fort Lee commanding general,.

Retired Lt. Col. Louis F. Martin, who celebrated his 100th birthday July 3, was a special participant and speaker at the event. He joined Hurley, Command Sgt. Maj. Nathaniel J. Bartee Sr., CASCOM CSM; and Col. Sean P. Davis, 59th Ordnance Brigade commander, in placing the final items in the time capsule. These included a letter from Hurley, a CASCOM organization chart, a centennial video, a special centennial coin and more.

During a reception, the guests circulated around tables to view items set to be placed in the capsule.

“The time capsule will soon be encased in a 1920s vintage railroad safe,” said Ken Finlayson, CASCOM command historian, who is part of the Lee team that coordinated the gathering of materials, acquiring the time capsule and other details. “It will be placed on the first floor of the CASCOM building near the front entrance. The time capsule is a commercial model stainless steel container emblazoned with the Centennial logo – 12 inches x 12 inches x 14 inches – that seals hermetically. The railroad safe was repainted in black and gold along the lines of an Army paymaster safe.”

Finlayson continued, “Our mission was to collect representative materials from CASCOM and the Fort Lee tenant units that reflect their current mission and organization. The intent is to preserve these until the next centennial – in this case the Fort Lee Bicentennial in 2117.”

Fort Lee’s plan, he said, has been conducted differently than most time capsules that are generally buried in the ground or as part of a structure.

“Maj. Gen. Williams wanted the capsule to be visible in the headquarters, an idea that he got while stationed at the Army Materiel Command. In terms of the content, each unit or organization was given some parameters and suggestions as far as size and content, but the product was left up to them.”

The team received resolutions adopted from six local communities and the city of Richmond; proclamations and letters from Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner; and a proclamation from the Virginia General Assembly sponsored by Representative Riley Ingram. Other items ranged from documents, photographs, military coins, small models of military vehicles and more.

During the ceremony, Fort Lee command leaders and area elected officials placed their contributions into the capsule while being recognized by Hurley.

“The Gold Star letters are unique and reflect some of the sacrifices made for the nation by our troops,” Finlayson noted.

In a letter written by Gold Star mother Tina Houchins about her son Spc. Aaron Daniel Gautier, who died May 17, 2007, in Baghdad, she wrote, “My wish is that he will never be forgotten. Aaron has touched so many lives. He went through so many changes when he joined the Army. One of the biggest … was that he became a gentleman at a young age. The transformation from a boy to a responsible brave young man.”

In her letter, Gold Star mother Deborah G. Leach, wrote of her son, Spc. Richard L. McNultry III, who died May 13, 2012, in Afghanistan. “I enjoyed his phone calls. He always sounded upbeat and really felt he was making a difference for the Afghani people. He really cared about people. Richard was very kindhearted – the kind of kid who always had a smile on his face.”

A letter from Gold Star parents Master Sgt. Douglas and Diane Cooper described their son, 1st. Lt. Jeffrey D. Cooper, who died on Sept. 10, 2016, in Kuwait. “Jeffrey’s happiness came from making others happy with his smile, which so many people commented on at his funeral. He gave his life so others could enjoy their life, which is what our country is all about: having the freedom to live our lives to the fullest.”

“As for us, 100 years from now we would hope that this world would be at peace,” wrote Gold Star parents Lawrence and Pok Sprader in a letter about their son Sgt. Lawrence G. Sprader Jr. who died June 12, 2007. “JR, as he was affectionately known, was a very quiet young man growing up. He was very shy and at times liked to be by himself and play with his games … Not a day goes by that we do not miss JR. We lost a loving son, his brother lost his best friend and his nephews lost their uncle.”

In a letter written by Gold Star wife Amanda Souza reflecting on her husband, Marine Sgt. 1st Class Chris Souza who took his life at home in 2016, she wrote, “There are no words to describe the pain I feel and void I have now in my heart … I never want anyone to ever have to go through the pain I am in. No one should ever feel this or have to live with the loss of a loved one due to veteran suicide. I have vowed to spend every day of my life trying to raise awareness and help save lives in my husband’s honor.”