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Monuments, markers, memorials as teaching tools for meaning behind Memorial Day

By Michelle Bridges, for VALOR Forge

This article originally appeared in part in VALOR May 2015 and May 2017.

Monument is in the Huntsville Cemetery and honors the fallen soldier.
Monument in Huntsville Cemetery honoring the fallen soldier.

Whether it’s the military ritual of the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, the dramatic natural setting of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific overlooking Pearl Harbor or individual flags placed by every veteran’s headstone at the local cemetery, monuments stand in remembrance and recognition of the fallen.

Older generations need to ensure younger generations understand the meaning behind memorials. “At virtually every cemetery across this state for Memorial Day, there will be veterans who will be placing flags on the graves of deceased brothers,” says Terry Schow, former executive director of Utah’s Department of Veterans and Military Affairs and member of American Legion Post No. 9. “And I think that’s as powerful a reminder of freedom as any monument.”

Schow believes such experiences are a great teaching opportunity “and hopefully, parents and grandparents will recognize that and show their children and grandchildren respect for the flag, reverence for military sacrifice and revere patriotism.”

Memorials, markers are sources of information, history

Looking for a military monument this Memorial Day to honor veterans? The Utah Division of State History (UDSH) has created a database showing the locations of veterans’ memorials throughout the state listing more than 210 memorial sites dedicated to over 20 wars, conflicts and terrorist attacks that occurred between 1775 to present time. Memorials are categorized by “war” type and when available, the memorial dedication date or year. The map also includes photos and war descriptions. An interactive map at

Story of Utah Freedom Memorial is a teaching moment

Originally dedicated in May 2014, the Utah Freedom Memorial, located on the grounds of Sandy’s City Hall. More than seven years in development, the monument was originally based on the service of Adam Galvez, who died in Iraq in 2004, and a father’s wish to create an educational experience to let kids today know why his son served. From the beginning, Tony Galvez, and other memorial committee members, put education at the heart of the project; adopting the tagline “to educate Utah’s youth as to the cost of freedom.”

Adjacent to the Utah Freedom obelisk is a doubled-walled monument with a reflection area where not only the soldier is honored but also the courageous spirit of those who are left behind.
Adjacent to the Utah Freedom Memorial obelisk is a doubled-walled monument with a reflection area where not only the soldier is honored but also the courageous spirit of those who are left behind.

“We wanted a living memorial,” says Paul Swenson, memorial facilitator and founder of the Colonial Flag Foundation (healing “That’s why you won’t find names of individual people who’ve died at the memorial, but rather contributions from those that have lived through their service.”

The centerpiece of the memorial is a 15-foot tall granite pentagonal obelisk with five large bronze plaques at its base. Each of the five sides hosts a corresponding symbol for a branch of the military with a plaque explaining the value of freedom, its cost through the eyes of those who have served, emphasizing the fallen, wounded, disabled, POW / MIA and the families that support them.

Adjacent to the obelisk is a doubled-walled monument. One side bears a Battlefield Cross with a symbolic vault at its base that honors all Utah’s fallen military. The other side is a reflection area where not only the soldier is honored but also the courageous spirit of those who are left behind to handle the challenges of day-to-day life — a wife, mother, sweetheart or significant other.

On the southern end of the plaza is a heroic-size bronze statue of three firemen raising the American flag at Ground Zero — “To Lift a Nation” — soon after the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001.


Michelle Bridges is the VALOR Forge Publications Manager.


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