Veterans Day marks big step for Vail Valley memorial park
VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – This year’s Vail Valley Veterans Day ceremony, set for 4:30 p.m., Wednesday, near the flagpole at Freedom Park in Edwards, will have a little something extra for those who attend.After years in storage, a 700-pound piece of limestone from the Pentagon will be put on display at the park atop a pyramid-shaped base. The piece of stone was blown loose when American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. A group of local veterans and supporters brought the stone back from Washington D.C. in March of 2005, intending to make it one of the key elements of a memorial to military, police, firefighters and other emergency responders who have died in the line of duty.Much of the planning work has already been done. The main barrier to completing the memorial has been the inability to raise the roughly $2 million needed to build it. The national economic slump has further complicated fundraising. So the stone sat in storage in an Eagle County-owned warehouse.In September of this year, representatives of the memorial committee asked the Eagle County Commissioners for help getting the stalled project going again. With help from county crews and about a dozen local companies, the Pentagon-stone memorial will be unveiled on Veterans Day.Local veteran Pat Hammon said fellow veteran Buddy Sims and former Eagle County Commissioner Tom Stone “really took the lead” in getting the stone out of storage and into public view.And, given the slowdown in the local construction industry, “they really picked a good time to do this,” Hammon said.”The placing ceremony will be about the first 10 minutes of the main ceremony,” Sims said.After the stone is placed, the rest of the ceremony will focus on veterans. State Rep. Christine Scanlan will give a speech, and a barbershop quartet from Battle Mountain High School will sing the national anthem. Others will read the names of the more than 160 Eagle County residents who have died in the line of duty.While Wednesday’s ceremonies will focus on military veterans, Hammon said police, firefighters and other civilian emergency workers will be honored in May of next year at the annual “ride in remembrance” Vail code enforcement officer Moses Gonzalez puts together.And this home for the stone may not be the way it’s ultimately displayed.For now, though, “We’re happy to have it on display,” Hammon said.