It’s difficult to travel more than a mile in some parts of Utah without passing a monument.
With Saturday’s Armed Forces Day comes a new Utah monument to veterans — but this one comes with a lesson, literally.
The new 15-foot-tall Utah Freedom Memorial, unveiled Friday near Sandy City Hall, is meant to educate kids about the cost of freedom. Organizers not only raised money to erect the granite, bronze and concrete structure but also designed a curriculum they hope area schools will use to teach kids about the importance of freedom and the sacrifices necessary to sustain it.
The monument was inspired by Marine Cpl. Adam Galvez, of Salt Lake City, killed in Iraq in 2006, but it’s dedicated to all servicemen and women and veterans, past, present and future.
“The real purpose of this is to celebrate the ideals these men and women have suffered and died for,” said Scott Swain, who helped design the curriculum and owns an Orem-based company called Roots of Freedom.
As part of the curriculum, students would participate in simulations of important historic events each year, such as arriving as immigrants at Ellis Island, declaring independence as delegates to the Second Continental Congress and playing the role of delegates to the Constitutional Convention. Organizers hope to raise $50,000 a year to pay for the materials for 25,000 students to participate each year.
Each year monument organizers also will hold an essay contest. This year’s theme was “The Cost of Freedom,” and winners will have their essays attached to the monument for a year.
Though the monument is a remembrance of veterans, Swain said, organizers believed it was important to teach kids about freedom rather than just war.
“The monument is not to necessarily celebrate war,” Swain said. “The monument is to celebrate why we go to war.”
The group behind the monument first began raising money for it about seven years ago, shooting for $1.3 million, said Paul Swenson, one of the organizers and owner of Colonial Flag in Sandy. But after half a dozen years, the group scaled down the cost to $435,000, almost all of which has now been raised from a number of donors, including the state, Sandy, Salt Lake County, Wal-Mart, the C.E. & S. Foundation, and the Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Foundation, among others.
Though the monument is dedicated to all veterans, Galvez was the initial inspiration.
He was killed at age 21 when the vehicle he was in ran over a bomb in 2006.
Shortly before that, he had narrowly escaped death when a suicide bomber attacked a building where he and other Marines were bunked. After digging himself out of the rubble, he ran through gunfire to get a shovel — and then ran back through the gunfire again — to dig out his fellow Marines, said his dad, Tony Galvez.
He was wounded in that attack and was given the option of going home. He asked his parents if he should return to Utah. They said yes, but they also said they’d support whatever he decided.
He decided to stay in Iraq and was killed a week after he rejoined his fellow Marines.
In 2007, a street in Salt Lake City was named after him.
At that ceremony, however, Tony Galvez couldn’t help but feel that his son shouldn’t be the only one getting recognition.
He wanted to see all servicemen and women and veterans, from all branches, living and deceased, honored. He began talking to his friend Swenson about it, and the idea for the monument was born.
“I want to teach the youth what the cost of freedom is ... what it is to be an American, what it is to be a teenager at 18 years old and have enough gumption to raise his hand and say, ‘I will go, send me,’ ” Tony Galvez said of the young men and women who go to war for America.
He said he hopes his son would be proud of his efforts to bring the monument and its educational mission to life.
“I think he’d give me a big old ‘Oorah’ for doing the right thing,” Galvez said.