The First of Its Kind to Honor Those Who Sacrificed
An Inside Look at the Colorado Freedom Memorial
September 12, 2017
The towering glass panels of the Colorado Freedom Memorial honor those who’ve given the ultimate sacrifice. However, it’s no ordinary military monument. The Colorado Freedom Memorial is the first American memorial dedicated to every Coloradoan killed or missing in action from the 1898 Spanish American War through today. The 6,123 heroes represent each of Colorado’s 64 counties, forming an unbreakable bond of sacrifice across the state.
While it’s mission is grounded in remembrance, Rick Crandall, President of the Colorado Freedom Memorial Board of Directors, believes the memorial does more than just serve a reminder. “It’s a tribute to those who answered the country’s call, just like it’s a cemetery for some whose loved one didn’t return,” said Crandall. “It’s a tribute to someone they’ve [military veterans] served with to restore freedom…depending on who you are the memorial has a different meaning.”
Deciding how to honor our hometown heroes was no easy task. Each detail of the Colorado Freedom Memorial was intentionally designed to pay respect in more ways than one. The 12 feet glass panels are angled forward and back to represent heroes falling in action. This paneling creates a mirror image of the onlooker, many families of fallen soldiers see their reflection as a piece of them within the memorial. In front of the panels, moving water is intended to symbolize the oceans that separate Colorado from the fields of battle. Every piece of the memorial was created to be meaningful, yet open to personalized interpretation for the visitor.
The memorial is situated within a four-acre park complete with green space and walking path for visitors. Located at 756 Telluride St. in Aurora, Crandall said the location went from unsightly to ideal within a matter of seconds. As he was pacing over the open space, “I looked up to see some of the F-16 planes headed towards the Buckley Air Force Base that flew over the spot, I knew the importance of those planes flying over to the memory of those they were flying above,” said Crandall. Without hesitation, the future site of the Colorado Freedom Memorial began construction in February of 2013. After only a few short months, the Colorado Freedom Memorial was completed in May and remains in the flight path of planes headed towards the Buckley Air Force Base.
In the nearly five years since its completion, the Colorado Freedom Memorial continues to evolve. Crandall mentioned plans to include a granite marker next to the monument to hold soil from cemeteries where Colorado soldiers are buried. Recently, the memorial introduced a kiosk with a searchable database of all the listed soldiers, making it easier for visitors to locate names. “The memorial doesn’t bring them closure, but it does bring them closer,” Crandall explained. “Over 3,000 soldiers haven’t come home, this is how families feel connected.”
Over the course of 17 years, Crandall has been at the heart of the memorial. From the initial idea to the groundbreaking ceremony, he’s interacted with visitors from Colorado and across the world. Described as “disruptive”, the memorial is truly unique to any other veteran’s memorial in the country by honoring all soldiers, regardless of rank or war.
“Each of us is presented with an opportunity to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. I’m glad we didn’t miss the chance in Aurora. We chose to honor those who severed and didn’t come home, that’s something bigger than yourself.”
The Colorado Freedom Memorial is open daily and serves as a constant reminder to visitors and locals alike. Around the holidays, the memorial hosts a luminarias ceremony beginning at dusk on December 1st. The ceremony is complete with 6,123 candles to represent every soldier and runs through December 3rd.
Colorado Freedom Memorial
Board of Directors