When you first arrive at Veterans Memorial Park in New Castle, DE, two small metal eagles greet you at the gate -- one on each side of the road. They are part of a set of three, with their larger counterpart gracing a monument deeper in the park. Although the largest and most prominent eagles there, they are only several that can be found upon closer inspection of the park.
Eagles are a strong and important symbol in both U.S. History and American military culture. After the Bald Eagle was designated as the national bird in 1782, it became a symbol for the country itself. It remains one of the few things in American history that have proven Founding Father Benjamin Franklin wrong, who was a strong proponent for the turkey over the eagle as the national bird. To most others, the eagle is seen as a symbol of strength, courage and freedom. Among other places, it appears on the flag of the President of the United States , on the mallet used at The U.S. House of Representatives, as one of two symbols on the back of the U.S. one-dollar bill, and is on the back of many U.S. coins.
EAgles across cultures
Eagles in American history date back to Native Americana. They revered eagles and considered a gift of an eagle feather to be one of a highest honor. According to Native culture, the Eagle was chosen by the Creator to be the master of the sky as it could fly higher and see better than other birds. It was considered to be a messenger that carried the prayers of humans on earth up to the Spirit World. Each year, as services are held at Veterans Memorial Park and prayers are offered both for those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice and for the safety of those in current active military service, the Eagle in this role seems a fitting symbol.
In military history, eagle symbolism dates back to the Romans with the eagle used as the standard of the Roman Legion. Jupiter, the Roman God of War, had a thunderbolt and eagle on his shield. Each Roman legion was said to have its own eagle and was dedicated to protecting the bird. The Eagle is equally prominent in Greek and Norse mythology, always associated with war, strength and vision. Today, the eagle remains a strong symbol in the U.S military. It is an iconic national symbol that is also reflected on the flags of four of the uniformed branches of the U.S. Armed Forces -- the Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and Marines.
See Related Story: Military Flags at the Park
For all of its symbolic reasons, when the maintenance crews at the Delaware River & Bay Authority (DRBA), many of who were Army and Navy veterans themselves, had the opportunity to acquire the set of three eagles now seen at the park, they embraced it. In addition to the two welcoming eagles at the park entrance, they created a graceful eagle monument that now sits at the foot of the plaza facing the main memorial. It is positioned to look like it just flew in off The Delaware Memorial Bridge, dedicated itself to the memory of veterans from WWll and the Korean War, to now look over the Veterans Memorial Park honoring even more who have fallen in wars since.