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Gold Star Memorial recognizes sacrifice and families who forever grieve

Jun 03 2024
Mimi Darley Dutton | Draper Journal

On a sunny day in May, Draper City dedicated a somber new monument at Draper Park. Made of black granite, the two-sided tribute honors Gold Star families and recognizes their loss of a loved one who died in active-duty military service.

The front of the monument is etched with the words “A tribute to Gold Star families and relatives.” The back has four panels representing Homeland, Family, Patriot and Sacrifice, the latter panel depicts a casket draped with an American flag. Carved into the monument is a silhouette of a saluting service member. Nearby is a bench etched with the words “Freedom is not free” and flags representing every branch of the Armed Forces surround the memorial.

“I think the word that hits me the most is sacrifice. This is a monument that represents moms, dads, sisters, brothers, grandchildren, grandfathers and grandmothers who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our country and our freedom, and these folks endure that ultimate sacrifice for the rest of their lives,” said Draper Mayor Troy Walker.

In his remarks, Walker noted that since the end of the draft, the military has been staffed by volunteers. “Nothing beats the heart of a volunteer,” he said. Walker went on to quote Winston Churchill who said, “You make a living by what you do. You make a life by what you give.”

Tony Galvez, father of Adam Galvez, told his son’s story. Adam survived a suicide bombing near his barracks and heroically tried to save his comrades by digging them out of the sand and debris. He recovered and returned to active duty only to be killed by an IED.

“We were notified by that famous knock at the door. One of the hardest things that a parent goes through is to be notified that your son or your daughter is not coming home,” Tony said. He and Adam’s mother, Amy, served as members of the committee that helped make the Draper monument happen. “We decided that in Adam’s honor, we would carry on the tradition of serving our community and surrounding communities. We try to do what we can for Adam’s memory and for everybody else that received that fateful knock. This monument will allow us to come and meditate about our children, but more importantly, for the community to come to this beautiful surrounding to think about what cost there was…monetary cost is nothing compared to the lives given. It allows the community to think about and meditate on the families that are still grieving,” Tony said.

Among the donors who contributed to the monument is Steve Rosenvall, son of a Green Beret and a veteran himself. Rosenvall grew up in Draper and he described deciding to join the military at the naïve age of 17.

“Being all wise as a high school junior, I was going to sign a contract to join the military when my father sat me down and asked if I knew what this really means. He said, ‘Son, the chances of you going to war in your lifetime are 100%...are you ready to die for your country?’” Rosenvall first served a two-year Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint mission in Mexico and went on to join the military and serve in Afghanistan. “What a difference between serving a mission versus serving in combat,” he said. Reality set in when a friend of his was killed. “In that moment was the first time I started to comprehend giving your life for your country and what that means. I will always be grateful to the men and women who gave their lives for our freedom,” Rosenvall said.

The monument is a product of the Woody Williams Foundation in conjunction with Draper City, volunteers and donors. Stephen Whitehead traveled from foundation headquarters in Kentucky for Draper’s dedication ceremony. Whitehead gave the history of the foundation that builds these memorials to honor Gold Star families. Whitehead explained that Williams was a Marine who served in WWII and earned the Medal of Honor. But before his military service, Williams worked for Western Union and one of the things he was tasked with delivering was telegrams from the State Department notifying families that their loved one was killed.

“Woody was hand delivering those letters to families on their front porch and that started to shape how we got here,” Whitehead said. After completing his own military service, Williams was inspired to recognize Gold Star mothers. At a speaking engagement, a father approached Williams and told him “dads cry too.” As a result, Woody wanted to recognize the entire family in their grief. “We commit to remembering your loved ones. I know this is a small token of the loss you have experienced, but know that we recognize and appreciate what you have sacrificed for this great nation and our freedom,” Whitehead said. Draper’s monument is the 134th Gold Star memorial by the Woody Williams Foundation.

Bagpipes played “Amazing Grace” while Gold Star families were invited to state the name of their loved one and place a yellow rose at the base of the monument in their memory. Pictures of some who died in service to their country sat at the base of the monument. Tears, hugs, handshakes and words of support were shared by members of the grieving families.

In addition to the Gold Star families in attendance were members of Draper’s City Council and staff and Congressman John Curtis along with monument committee members and sponsors. A letter from Gov. Spencer Cox and First Lady Abby Cox was shared at the dedication. “Today we recommit to always honor and remember the life and service of those we have lost. Your service member gave all, and we will forever owe so much….Thank you for your strength and example as Gold Star Families. You have and will forever inspire us and so many others to serve and defend the ideals on which this country was founded,” the Coxes wrote.

The new monument sits east of the all-abilities playground and replaces what once was a sandy area with exercise equipment.

“Now it’s one of the great spots in our community,” Walker said. “We hope this monument will do some small part for what your family members have given the United States.”