Manhattan man turns backyard into veteran, fallen soldiers memorial

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MANHATTAN, Kan. (KSNT)– After returning from Operation Desert Storm, a Manhattan man’s life changed as he went day to day with memories of the war.

Now, Chris Dunham is finding another way to cope while honoring those who put their lives on the line with a pathway of honor.

Dunham is an Army veteran who served in the first Iraq war, Operation Desert Storm. He was in the military for about eight years before he left in 1992, returning to Manhattan. Once he came back home, he was different.

“Young kids, that are begging for food,” he said. “You can’t help them. The bodies. The makeshift graves that they are doing. There’s a lot of that…if I were to go into detail it would turn people’s stomachs.”

He was flooded with memories of the war. Dunham was later diagnosed with PTSD. He looked for ways to get away from those thoughts, but his coping became unhealthy.

“When people are deployed, they don’t see what goes on over there. they don’t see what is actually happening, he said. “They think that when people come back, you just start your life over as if nothing ever happened. Well…you can’t erase memories. You can’t erase vivid images. For years I used alcohol. I finally took up running, I was saying as exercise. But I was actually was using it as a scapegoat.”

Then he came across a brick in 2017.

“I was doing a simple veterans memorial for my family,” he said. “Ended up turning into something much larger.”

Dunham took a brick and carved out the names of his family members who served. Then one brick turned into more than 70, honoring the veterans who are alive and those who paid ultimate sacrifice.

It’s become more than the carved out names. In fact, his backyard has become a mural to honor soldiers as a way to give back. Remembering those on his pathway of honor.

“This isn’t about me,” Dunham said. “This is about those people that have laid their lives down for our country and our nation.”

Dunham also started the Facebook page Pathway and Memorial of Honor. It’s a place where people can share their stories, as well as request a brick for their loves ones.

He said he’s not finished adding to the backyard. Right now, he is in the process of replicating a World War II cannon.

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