Local News

Families decorate boots in honor of lost service members

Posted April 16, 2015 3:42 p.m. EDT
Updated April 16, 2015 7:16 p.m. EDT

— Several Fort Bragg organizations are turning old Army boots into symbols of love, pride and gratitude for soldiers who lost their lives while serving the country.

One of those boots is for Staci Chiomento’s husband.

"I'm a little bit more emotional than I have been lately," said Chiomento, who would’ve celebrated her 15th wedding anniversary this month.

Chiomento's husband, Staff Sgt. Robert Chiomento, was killed on July 17, 2006 after he was hit by a rocket propelled grenade in Afghanistan.

"They were on a mission - an attack mission, and he was the only one killed that day," she said.

The collection of decorated boots will be on display in Hendrick Stadium as part of the Memorial Day celebration to remember American service members who have died since the war in Afghanistan began.

Chiomento remembered her husband by decorating a pair of boots with her daughter.

"She was only five, so she doesn't have very many memories of her daddy," she said. "This way she can honor both the memory, and do something with me."

So far, the organizations have collected about 5,600 of the 7,000 pairs needed for the display.

Charlotte Watson, Fort Bragg’s survivor outreach services program manager, said each boot will be personalized.

"Each boot will have the name of the service member, the branch of service they were in and the date we lost them, as well as a photo, if we can find the photos," Watson said.

For Chiomento and her daughter, the display is about honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

"We lost them young, but we get to hold them up as heroes,” she said. “They're American heroes and we have a lot of pride and honor in that."

Anyone who wants to donate a pair of used boots can do so at several locations including the Survivor Outreach Services Office on Knox Street, 1st TSC Annex, Gavin Hall, USASOC Family Programs, the Family Readiness Group Center, the Soldier Support Center, and the Soldier-Family Assistance Center.