DENVER -- A tribute to Coloradans killed in military conflicts has been in the works for 10 years but funding is needed to begin construction. The Colorado Fallen Heroes Memorial Fund is trying to raise $250,000 for the memorial that will be located on the ground of the existing Veterans Monument, across from the state Capitol.
“Realizing the memorial after such a long time, I think, would just be a wonderful statement to the Gold Star families, to our veterans, and to Colorado that we support our military," said Rebecca Kim, President of the Colorado Fallen Heroes Memorial Fund.
Kim's connection to the project is personal. Her brother, Russell Rippetoe, was killed by a pregnant suicide bomber in Iraq. After his death in 2003, she wanted to find a way to honor his sacrifice and the sacrifice of other brave military heroes just like him.
The journey started in April 2007, when then-Gov. Bill Ritter signed a bill endorsing the creation of a memorial to honor Coloradans killed in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf War and Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill back in May that authorized the fund and allowed fundraising to begin.
Tom Wykstra got involved after his son, Jacob Wykstra, was killed in Iraq when his Black Hawk helicopter went down in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.
"Unfortunately going through this tragedy has given me a totally different perspective on life and what service means and what sacrifice means," said Wykstra.
The Gold Star families involved in the project want to stress the memorial will be a place to recognize and honor all of Colorado's fallen soldiers. The design includes six panels with the names of each war, along with a spot for families and friends to leave flowers or memento.
"I know the grief that they feel, and so being able to have a memorial that honors all of them, I think, is really important," said Kim.
The non-profit is accepting donations online for the memorial. Checks can also be made payable to the Fallen Heroes Memorial Fund, Inc. and sent to P.O. Box 462571, Aurora, CO 80046-257.