AURORA, Colo. --
For three nights, the stars were mirrored over two and a half acres as more than 6,000 luminaries flickered, each representing a life sacrificed in service to the nation.
From Nov. 29 to Dec. 1, 2018, volunteers trickled in from the local community to assist in setting up, and then lighting the luminaries at the Colorado Freedom Memorial in Aurora, Colorado.
“It’s a way … we can honor their service and their sacrifice,” said retired Chief Petty Officer Brian Chochol, a Colorado local. “It’s one way I can say thanks for giving us the opportunity to serve later.”
Each of the 6,218 names on the Freedom Memorial Wall represent Coloradoans who died in combat from the time of the Spanish American war to present.
“The notion that somebody would give their life for us seems like an incredible thing to do,” said Rick Crandall, Colorado Freedom Memorial president. “We understand it, those of us who’ve served and those who are in the military … but for most people who don’t have military background, the idea escapes them that somebody would be willing to do that and once they figure it out, they really feel a need to come out and show somehow, someway that they’re grateful so they come here and they flip on candles.”
As the sun receded behind the Rocky Mountains and the temperature fell, dozens of people arrived, each with their own motivation.
Everybody gathered, laughed and was glad to be together, said Crandall. They understood why they were here. To see that happen time and time again where people come and give up part of their weekend and just be here because something about the place draws them – it’s amazing.
Old and young joined in turning the lights on and then coming back and turning them off, despite the daunting, cold weather. The number of volunteers who show their support has increased each year as word spreads about the luminary display.
“As everyone figures out pretty quickly, we lean on volunteers a lot to help us with events,” said Crandall. “Volunteer activities out here become an event of themselves where people learn about the memorial.”
Whether a civilian or service member, this annual event has become a tradition to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
“We have a wonderful relationship with Buckley across the street,” said Crandall. “Buckley being an active Air Force base – no connections to Colorado really – a lot of people at Buckley come from other places, so for them to show that interest in paying tribute to Colorado’s fallen, recognizing that it doesn’t matter where they’re from, we’re all in this, we all wear the uniform, we’re all part of the same team. I love that an awful lot.”
To learn more about the Colorado Freedom Memorial, you can visit their website at www.ColoradoFreedomMemorial.com.