Jul 21 2020
Tim Vandenack | Standard-Examiner
NORTH OGDEN — James Hammon foresees many visits to the plaza sitting between the North Branch library, North Ogden’s municipal building and the North Ogden Police Department headquarters.
“I’ll spend a lot of time here, I’m sure,” he said.
The space is reserved for a memorial to Gold Star survivors — spouses, kids, parents and others of military service members who have died while serving — and the giant granite slabs making up the monument were put in place on Monday. “It’s a beautiful monument. It looks better than I thought,” said Hammon, whose stepson Jared Reaves, a chief petty officer in the U.S. Coast Guard, died of leukemia last year.
The formal dedication of the Gold Star memorial is set for Aug. 1 and, as such, once the four slabs of the monument were installed Monday, they were promptly covered. But those on hand to watch Monday’s action — the boosters who have been most involved in promoting the initiative, like Hammon — got a sneak peak of the memorial and offered up the key message it’s meant to convey.
“This is a monument for the families left behind as opposed to the fallen heroes,” said Jennie Taylor, who’s also been instrumental in working with the Hershel Woody Williams Medal of Honor Foundation to bring the memorial to North Ogden. Her husband Brent Taylor, who served as North Ogden mayor, died in late 2018 in Afghanistan while on a yearlong deployment there with the Utah Army National Guard.
Hammon hopes it serves as a conversation starter for those visiting the library or visiting North Ogden City Hall or the police department on business. “If they don’t know and understand what a Gold Star family is, this’ll start the conversation,” he said.
The monument, similar to 60 others installed around the country in cooperation with the nonprofit Williams foundation, features four large black granite slabs with a cutout of a saluting soldier between two of them. The North Ogden monument features images of a giant U.S. flag flying in Coldwater Canyon and the iconic raising of a U.S. flag on Iwo Jima during World War II, among other things.
The cutout, said Jennie Taylor, represents the service members who are gone. One of the messages on the North Ogden monument reads, “A tribute to Gold Star families and relatives who sacrificed a loved one for our freedom.”
North Ogden Councilperson Phil Swanson, a close friend of Brent Taylor, has been a big proponent of the monument and he was present Monday as a giant crane lowered the four slabs for placement. A crew from Bailey Granite in Flatwoods, Kentucky, which made the North Ogden monument and has made more than 40 such Gold Star memorials for placement nationwide, was on hand to oversee placement.
When a service member dies, he or she will get plenty of accolades, as deserved, Swanson said, but it’s “too easy to forget the families that are left behind.”
The memorial has a total price tag of around $120,000, including construction of the concrete base where it’s placed, landscaping and more. The city contributed the space, but otherwise all the needed funding has come from the public.
Word of the plans publicly emerged just last September and Jennie Taylor had originally hoped the monument would have been installed last May, Memorial Day. The COVID-19 pandemic, though, slowed things. Still, generating the needed donations and now, installation of the monument, took less than a year, and Hammon took the speed as a testament of the community’s support for the military and those who serve.
“I attribute it to a great community and the great military support we have here,” said Hammon. He was there with wife Marti Hammon, Jared Reaves’ mother.
The memorial doesn’t feature names of individual service members or their family members, but Taylor hopes Gold Star family members who visit feel a strong connection nonetheless. “I hope everyone who sees this feels it’s theirs,” she said.
The Aug. 1 dedication of the monument starts at 8:30 a.m. The plaza where it’s located is outside North Ogden City Hall, 505 E. 2600 North.