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Fallen memorial repaired for fallen soldiers

May 08, 2018 12:06PM ● Published by Jet Burnham

Cadets repair shrine to honor local veterans. (Neil Andersen/THS JROTC)

Gallery: Students Repair Veterans Memorial [5 Images] Click any image to expand.

By Jet Burnham | j.burnham@mycityjournals.com

Cadets from Taylorsville High School’s JROTC train for their military competitions on the Jordan River Parkway near their school. They regularly run past the Freedom Shrine, a monument to local veterans, on the Parkway near 700 West and 4500 South. They were upset when they noticed missing plaques, graffiti and trash around the memorial.

“We saw how it was basically going downhill,” said cadet captain Jonathan Avila. “This isn’t how we should make a memorial for our fallen.”

Cadets wanted those who use the Parkway to see a respectful remembrance of their veterans.

Student leaders waited until mid-March when the weather was warm enough to organize a service project to restore the Freedom Shrine. Using 5 gallons of gray paint provided by Taylorsville City officials, they repainted the shrine’s cement wall. They also picked up the trash in the area.

 “I felt I had a responsibility to take care of my community because we all live here; we’ve got to clean up after ourselves,” said First Lieutenant Fernanda Suaste, who felt it was a productive use of her time.

Second Lieutenant Abby Wayment said the monument looks much nicer now and is more respectful to the veterans. She said the memorial is a place community members can learn about their history.

“I love history, so I really liked doing this and being able to read some of the plaques,” Wayment said.

The plaques covering the shrine’s wall include copies of historical documents such as inspirational excerpts from the Declaration of Independence and President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address in which Americans were challenged to “ask what you can do for your country.” Others show newspaper clippings announcing wartime headlines from various wars. Some plaques honor local veterans, providing personal details about the veterans who gave their lives for their country.

Col. Neil Andersen, a JROTC instructor, knew some of the soldiers featured on the wall. He shared some personal stories about them with the cadets as they worked on the project.

Command Sgt. Major Laura Sanchez said when the painting was done, students shoveled leaves off the pathway as well. She said it wasn’t hard work and it went fast with many people helping.

But the clean-up was the easy part of the project. The JROTC is working to replace two plaques that have been stolen. And Andersen believes there are veterans whose names are missing from the wall.

“They have names from WWI and WWII, but there’s nothing there from Korea or Vietnam,” said Andersen. Some post-9/11 veterans have been honored on the wall, but Taylorsville government records don’t have accurate information on soldiers who served before 1996, when the Taylorsville/Bennion area was unincorporated.

Andersen said they contacted the Heritage Center, Taylorsville City and Veterans of Foreign Wars, but none have been able to provide records to identify who may have been omitted from the shrine.

“We’re looking for people that should be on the wall but aren’t on the wall,” said Montanez.

The cadets are asking the community to share any information they have of family members, friends or neighbors from the Taylorsville/Bennion area who lost their lives during military service.

Once the veterans are identified, VFW will make plaques for them and the students will add them to the shrine.

“When we say these people died in this war, people just hear names and words,” Avila said. He feels that having plaques with the veteran’s name, picture and information will help community members appreciate the veterans and see them as real people.

The cadets participate in community service projects throughout the year.

“It’s helping our cadets to see what we can do if we just put our minds to it—making a plan and sticking to it,” Avila said.

Corporal Vaianna Schwenke is inspired by the patriotism of veterans and plans to join the armed forces.

“Maybe I might make myself honorable enough to get on the wall,” she said.

The Freedom Shrine is located along the Jordan River Parkway at Bridgeside Park near 700 West and 4500 South. It was erected by the Taylorsville Exchange Club in 2001.

If you have any information about fallen veterans who served from the Taylorsville/Bennion area, Andersen urged people to contact him: Taylorsville High JROTC, njandersen@grainiteschools.org, 385- 646-1197.

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