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Ground broken for veterans memorial in West Valley City

Jul 12, 2021 03:14PM ● By Darrell Kirby

Local government and military officials break ground for the Guardians of Freedom veterans memorial in West Valley City. (Darrell Kirby/City Journals)

By Darrell Kirby | [email protected]

A dusty field in West Valley City will eventually become a place of remembrance of and for Utahns who have served in America’s military, some of whom made the ultimate sacrifice for the nation’s security and freedom. 

A groundbreaking ceremony was held on Memorial Day to mark the impending start of construction of the first phase of the Guardians of Freedom Memorial on a plot of city-owned land just south of the Utah Cultural Celebration Center. 

“This will be a year-round memorial,” said Mayor Ron Bigelow, an Air Force veteran who has led the planning and fundraising effort for the memorial. “We’re not here to glorify or demonize war. We’re here to honor those who served, whether they were drafted, whether they joined.”

The first phase of construction will result in an honor wall with the names of the approximately 3,000 known war dead from Utah. That will be surrounded by a flag plaza, benches, landscaping, and a parking lot. Future phases will include a building where veterans can videorecord recollections of their military experiences and for the public to search the names and available information of servicemen and women from the Beehive State. 

Utah Rep. Burgess Owens, whose 4th Congressional District takes in part of West Valley City, told those assembled for the groundbreaking that the Guardians of Freedom Memorial has his full support in part because he has relatives who have served in the armed forces going back to World War I. “It touches your heart to see what people have done, the sacrifice and commitment, the unbelievable dream and love for a nation, that people will give their lives.”

Bigelow hopes phase one can be completed by Veterans Day in November. He says several contractors have offered to donate their services to build the memorial when they can work it in among the flurry of other construction projects in the area. Cost of the first step of the memorial is about $1.3 million.

Several cities in Salt Lake County were asked to consider hosting the Guardians of Freedom, but stepped aside for various reasons, leaving West Valley City as the chosen site. But Bigelow said it will be a memorial for the entire state. 

Public and private funds have been contributed to get the project started. Several million more dollars will need to be raised to finish the entire memorial in what the mayor estimates will be two to three years.