Memorial Day 2020 will be unlike anything we’ve seen – no parades, ceremonies, or gatherings to honor our nation’s heroes. However, the Colorado Freedom Memorial ensures the Aurora community doesn’t lose sight of what’s important, knowing the names of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
This year marks the 75th anniversary to the end of WWII, where 16 million Americans fought for our freedom. Now, there are less 250,000 remaining, even fewer who were involved in active combat. Colorado Freedom Memorial Board of Directors President, Rick Crandall, wants us all to remember their sacrifices this Memorial Day. “This anniversary is a very big deal,” explained Crandall. “With each passing year, the first-person narrative of WWII veterans dwindles. I am broken-hearted we cannot celebrate during the 75th anniversary because this is our opportunity to thank them in person.”
However, a lack of ceremony doesn’t mean Coloradoans can’t visit the memorial. Crandall encourages community members to spend the extended weekend visiting the Colorado Freedom Memorial on their own. Open from dawn until dusk, the Colorado Freedom Memorial is an admission-free, designated place to honor all Colorado veterans lost or killed in every war.
Visitors to the memorial are welcome to stop by 756 Telluride St. to pay their respects. Special brochures will be available for those interested in taking self-guided tours. Crandall asks all visitors to follow the social distancing standard of 6 ft. of separation, wear masks, and be respectful of others.
This year, the Colorado Freedom Memorial also celebrates its 7th anniversary. As Crandall explained, there are many ways to engage from your home, including mail-in and online donations, as well as detailed-oriented research.
“Most people are surprised when I tell them, but of the 6,000+ names on the wall, we do not know any additional information about nearly 4,000 of them,” said Crandall
He mentioned people from the community and across the world could get involved by selecting a name on the wall, researching ancestry databases, and finding information about this person. Crandall and the Colorado Freedom Memorial community are always looking to increase their information database, and research goes farther than most understand.
"When researching a person, you now have a personal connection to the Colorado Freedom Memorial and to past generations,” said Crandall
While official gatherings are on pause until further notice, Crandall emphasized future plans. “There is going to come a time when we can have a ceremony, and when the time is right, we will get it done and honor those most deserving,” he said.
Amidst the pandemic, Crandall has seen a sense of community blossom around the Colorado Freedom Memorial. During a special flyover of the Air Force Thunderbirds, Crandall went to the memorial to catch a glimpse only to realize others’ in Aurora had the same idea. As everyone social distanced from one another, Crandall realized the impact the memorial had on the community during these uncertain times.
“It was a bright moment. The Colorado Freedom Memorial came to mind for the community as a place to watch the flyover,” he said.
And community remembrance is just one piece of the puzzle. As Crandall explained, more people finding their way to the memorial builds a sense of connection.
"The Colorado Freedom Memorial is a beautiful thing in my hometown, the place I grew up, and I am so grateful for the ongoing support from our community and visitors.”