New memorial wall unveiled at Freedom Park ceremony
17th annual Memorial Day event doubled as a dedication for “Dr. Bill,” who died in November
Pat Hammon was able to relax and enjoy the ceremonies on Memorial Day this year.
While she has led the event for the past 16 years, Hammon ceded those duties to Claire Noble, who served in what Noble called a “B Team” capacity. Hammon, in turn, was allowed to witness a dedication to her late husband.
Dozens of locals attended the 17th annual event at Freedom Park in Edwards; Noble reminded the crowd of the significance of the limestone artifact around which the crowd was gathered.
“We can thank Buddy and Bonnie Sims, because our community has a piece of that limestone from the Pentagon, it’s here to honor the victims of the deadliest terror attack in U.S. history,” she said.
Names of locals killed in wars dating back to World War I were read, and local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops were honored for assisting and placing flags at local veteran grave sites.
“250 (flags), at four cemeteries across Eagle County,” Noble said. “They did that along with VFW volunteers and civil air patrol cadets.”
The marquee element of this year’s Memorial Day event was a recognition of Hammon’s husband, Dr. William Mungunga Hammon, M.D., who died on Nov. 17 at age 90.
Dr. Bill, as Hammon was known, loved the Freedom Park Memorial in Edwards, and was known to salute the flag whenever Pat and he passed by the park.
The Freedom Park Memorial, over the past 16 years, has contained pavers bearing the names of fallen veterans and first responders from Eagle County, but those pavers “were beginning to show signs of deterioration,” Al Zepeda with the Freedom Park Memorial Committee told the crowd Monday.
In the months since Hammon’s death, enough funds have been raised to see a new Eagle County Veteran and First Responder Memorial Wall constructed at Freedom Park, where the pavers bearing the names of fallen veterans and first responders can be protected from weather.
Crews broke ground on the wall in late March, and Monday’s Memorial Day event in Freedom Park doubled as a debut for the new memorial.
“We are especially grateful for Col. William M. Hammon, U.S. Army Medical Corps, to whom we dedicate this memorial,” said the Rev. Sid Spain. “We are grateful for Dr. Bill, and for all the honorable and humble men and women like him who have stood watch and served to ensure our nation’s security.”
Born to be a doctor
William Hammon was born in 1930 in a Belgian colony in Africa, where his parents were serving as medical missionaries. The village people insisted that his middle name be Mungunga, meaning doctor in Swahili. Hammon grew up to be just that, Spain said.
“He was head of neurosurgery and hospital commander at the 24th evacuation hospital in Long Bien, Vietnam,” Spain said. “We are grateful for his keen mind, skillful hand, compassionate heart.”
Rabbi Joel Newman said the fallen soldiers remembered on Memorial Day should be a reminder of who we aspire to be at home and among other nations.
“Let us be devoted to this service to all people, to peace and prosperity in every land,” Newman said. “In the name of the soldiers and sailors, marines and airmen, guardians and guardsmen, police and fire and first responders, we dedicate this memorial wall. As we look upon these names, we’re reminded that life is a precious gift, and that there’s much meaning in life, to those who will see it.”