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Morton West High School Veteran’s Memorial Plaque – Chicago, IL

December 2, 2013 Plaques

We were recently commissioned to create a cast bronze Veteran’s Day memorial plaque for Morton West High School in Berwyn, Illinois, which is just outside of Chicago.

We were proud to take on this project, because they take the Veteran’s Day assembly very seriously at Morton West High. In fact, Congressman Daniel Lipinski recently held a Congressional Art Competition for his district which included the school. One runner-up was Samantha Brave (appropriate name!) for her somber and thoughtful picture of such an assembly.

You can view the memorial and seals here:

One of the most arresting features of this plaque is the attention to detail in the military emblems. During the fabrication and installation of this plaque, we learned quite a bit about the rich history of each of these emblems, and we thought you might like to know more about them, too:

Department of the Army Seal

This emblem was originally the United States of America War Office Seal which later became the Department of the Army Seal. It was first developed during the American Revolution and was adopted into the emblem in 1947. The date was changed on the emblem to reflect when the American Army first started in 1775.

In the center of the emblem is the Roman cuirass, a type of armor. It represents strength and defense. The weapons depicted (sword, esponton, musket, bayonet, cannon, and mortars) represent the various weapons the Army used when the seal first originated. The cap on the unsheathed sword in the middle is the Phrygian cap, often called the “Cap of Liberty.” Up top we have the snake protecting the sign that says “This We’ll Defend,” signifying the Army’s readiness to take up arms at a moment’s notice.

Department of the Marine Corps Seal

The emblem you see on the top right of the plaque was officially signed as the emblem of the Marine Corps in 1955, but the story of how it got to this point is much longer. The original insignia was a “fouled” (tangled) anchor. Over time, an eagle was added atop the anchor as well as a globe. This is why the Marine Corps emblem is also known as the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor!

The anchor acknowledges the naval tradition of the Marines while the globe symbolizes the Corps’ readiness to go anywhere in the world they are needed at any time. The eagle represents the United States; in its beak it holds perhaps the most widely known fact about the Marines, their Latin motto “Semper Fidelis,” which means “Always Faithful.”

Department of the Navy Seal

Cast Bronze Veterans Memorial Plaque

The Department of the Navy’s official emblem went through almost as many changes as the Marine Corps’ emblem did. In fact, from about 1850-1957, the seal was presented in many different ways depending on who was showing it! The size of the eagle or ship would change; sometimes land would be shown, other times only water. All this confusion actually led to the official adoption of the seal we know today in 1957.

Land was officially added to the seal to symbolize the Navy’s ability to support shore facilities. While most looking at the seal would just see a nice looking, seaworthy ship, it’s actually drawn to be extremely specific. This is appropriate, since lacking attention to detail can land you in the water when you’re in the Navy!

Department of the Air Force Seal

Obviously the Air Force (bottom right) won’t have quite as long a history as the others here considering air travel was invented just over a hundred years ago. However, it did go through a few drafts, one of which included the Wright Brothers’ plane and a green background. This was quickly changed to a blue background and a sketch of Jupiter’s thunderbolts, symbolizing striking power through the air.

Other symbols on the seal include 13 stars for the 13 original colonies grouped into three to portray the three Departments of the National Defense Establishment. There’s also the traditional bald eagle and a cloud formation depicting the creation of a new firmament.

United States Coast Guard Seal


Last but not least we have the Coast Guard, middle bottom. It’s about as simple as the Army emblem is complicated – two crossed anchors, its founding year, the “racing stripes” shield, and the motto “Semper Paratus” which means “Always Ready” in Latin.

The emblem has changed significantly over the years. It was John F. Kennedy, though, that helped make the “racing stripes” such a significant part of the image. Many captains of many ships upon being saved by the Coast Guard would exclaim, “Thank goodness for the Navy!” JFK thought this did a disservice to the Coast Guard and wanted a redesign implemented. The final result was simple and effective.

We hope Morton West High School students and faculty enjoy their plaque every day, and especially during their 2013 Veteran’s Day Assembly. And we hope this stirring bronze memorial plaque has inspired you, too.

Detail of bronze military plaque  Military Plaque for High School



Written by: Shabbir Moosabhoy