Twelve years of research, planning and fundraising culminated Feb. 2 when groundbreaking ceremonies were held for the Colorado Freedom Memorial.
The unique memorial, being built in Aurora near Buckley Air Force Base, will be a tribute to about 6,000 men and women from Colorado who have died in defense of our country since statehood was established in 1876.
The idea was born 12 years ago after Rick Crandall did a live broadcast for radio station KEZW from the Omaha Beach American Cemetery in Normandy, France.
He said he and his wife put American flags on the graves of 88 Coloradans buried at Omaha Beach and he decided he wanted to do something to honor them and all Coloradans who died for their country.
“The idea was to create a memorial to honor the sacrifice of the men and women who fought and lost their lives for our country,” Crandall said at the groundbreaking. “It pays tribute to those who died, but also remembers the sacrifice and pain the families suffered at the loss of a loved one.”
He said the design by Christopher Kenton will be a glass wall about 12 feet tall and 80 yards wide. There will be panels for each war and the ragged top of the wall panels will represent the Rocky Mountains.
Crandall and his army of supporters raised about $700,000 for the memorial. The location is just a dirt construction site now, but plans are to have the project completed in time to dedicate it on May 26.
Littleton residents Orville and Norma Kern attended the ceremonies.
“We know Rick and his wife and we have followed and contributed to the fundraising effort,” Orville said. “As a veteran who was a medic in the Korean War era, I believe the memorial is a fitting tribute to those residents of our state who didn’t come home from war.”
Vietnam veteran Robert Peposa said he came to support his sister Renie Peterson, an Aurora City Council member, and because he felt the memorial is a wonderful way to honor veterans who died in service to their country.
“This is a way to make sure their sacrifice is never forgotten,” he said. “It’s also great it is here near Buckley so there will be flyovers in their honor all the time.”
During the ceremonies there was time to honor George Sakato, who received the Medal of Honor for his service with the 442nd Regimental Combat Team in World War II.
“This memorial honors those whose names will be on the walls,” he said. “It also is a special way to honor what all the men and women in military service have done for our country.”
More than 200 people at the groundbreaking were invited to grab a shovel and join in.
Lanny Harding took a turn at the shovel and tossed some dirt around.
“I came today because I served in Iraq and there will the names of a couple guys on that wall that I knew,” the Englewood man said. “I appreciate all that has been done to create this memorial because I feel there needs to be something honor Coloradans who didn’t come home and make sure what they did is never forgotten.”
There were about a dozen shovels provided for those who wanted to take part in the groundbreaking, but Rick Rokosz brought the entrenching tool he was issued by the Army when he was in Vietnam.
“I wanted to be part of this ceremony today,” the Highlands Ranch man said. “A lot of people have worked long and hard to make this dream a reality. I am proud to be part of today’s ceremony, the first step in creating this very special memorial.”