Colorado’s veterans memorials inspires journalist’s road trip

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Photo: Costilla County Veterans Memorial
The Costilla County Veterans Memorial.

When Pat Woodard visited Veterans Plaza of Northern Colorado in Fort Collins recently, he saw a "victory garden" there, which has dirt from more than 100 battlefields, military bases and cemeteries.

The site was one of several memorials that Woodard, a journalist, went to in Colorado. He wanted to better understand the sacrifices of veterans. He wrote about the experience in the most recent edition of AAA’s EnCompass magazine.

He found veterans memorials in the mountains and at the centers of towns, and learned that visiting them on "normal" days when there are no ceremonies or events is best.

“The days that I visited some of the sites featured in this article turned out to be perfect times for undistracted contemplation,” he writes. “There were no bands playing John Philip Sousa marches, no color guards marching in perfect procession, no speeches from dignitaries.”

Besides Veterans Plaza of Northern Colorado, Woodard notes a tall stone monument that stands near Ski Cooper, in the Leadville area. It was erected in memory of men in the Army's 10th Mountain Division who did not return from World War II, where soldiers on skis played a masterful role. Those soldiers are said to have helped launch the state's ski industry.

Woodard also visited the Colorado Freedom Memorial in Aurora. It remembers every member of the armed services from Colorado who died in combat or is missing in action since the Spanish-American War. That's the first U.S. war in which Colorado participated as an official state. Names are still being added.

“It’s done in a kind of a chaotic form, and that’s almost deliberate because war is chaotic and that’s the impression they want to convey,” Woodard says.

The site is close enough to Buckley Air Force Base that visitors may hear a bugle playing “Retreat,” signaling the end of the official day for troops as the flag is lowered.

“That is a very poignant and emotional time to be there,” Woodard says.

Woodard says visiting Colorado's veterans memorials can help people thank U.S. troops in an unusual way. Many Americans find it difficult, he says, to know how to thank a veteran for their service. “It’s just not something that we do on a regular basis,” he says. “A lot of us, I think, trip over our tongues when we try to do it and it comes off kind of mealy-mouthed.

"Here’s a way to do it without really having to say anything.”

Monuments Woodard visited:

  • Colorado Veterans Monument, 200 E. Colfax Ave.
  • 10th Mountain Division Memorial, Tennessee Pass, U.S. Hwy 24, Leadville
  • Veterans Plaza of Northern Colorado, 2626 W. Horsetooth Road, Fort Collins
  • Costilla County Veterans Memorial, about a half mile east of Fort Garland Museum on Ice House Road, Fort Garland
  • Colorado Freedom Memorial, 756 Telluride St., Aurora
  • Douglas County Veterans Monument, southwest corner of 4th and Wilcox Sts., Castle Rock