Their names, along with almost 6,000 other fallen Colorado soldiers, are now immortalized in glass on the Colorado Freedom Memorial in Aurora.
The memorial, the first of its kind honoring all Colorado soldiers killed or missing in action since statehood, was officially dedicated at Springhill Park on Sunday to a crowd of veterans young and old and their families.
"We did it," Rick Crandall, founder of the memorial, said to the crowd of about 1,500. "Today we say to them across the generations, 'We have not and will not forget about you.' "
Thirteen years in the making, the 95-foot-wide, 12-foot-tall structure consists of 21 glass panels positioned at varying
The panes are inscribed with the names of soldiers killed in action and grouped by wars, beginning with the Spanish-American War of 1898 and ending with the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan. There is also a separate panel for soldiers missing in action.
"I think it's absolutely wonderful," said Julie Schrock, whose son, Chad, was killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2010. "It's a beautiful piece of art."
Among the challenges in creating the memorial was compiling the names of soldiers because of poor historical record-keeping, a fire at the National Records Center in St. Louis in 1973 and the fact that soldiers' deaths were often not reported, according to the memorial's website.
Kristoffer Kenton, the memorial's designer, said from the outset 13 years ago the memorial was designed with the soldiers' families in mind.
"Watching them experience this wall is indescribable," he said. "This is designed to have an experience that you don't get out of other types of structures."
It wasn't just the families of the fallen who attended, though. So, too, did some of the soldiers who fought alongside them.
George Sakato, 92, wore his
"There are names on there that were on the left side of me and the right side of me," he said. "This memorial's for them; they're never coming home. I wear this for them."