BOUNTIFUL — Gratitude was on full display in Bountiful Wednesday with the dedication of a new monument honoring those who have served in the U.S. armed forces.
Even on a gray November day further overcast by COVID-19 restrictions, a hardy group of masked local patriots and civic leaders braved the cold to officially dedicate Bountiful Veterans Park on Veterans Day 2020. The newly bestowed public space is meant to be a gathering place that pays special tribute to those who served in World War II as well as Korean and Vietnam war veterans.
Bountiful Veterans Park, 740 S. 100 East, is a primarily privately funded initiative developed to honor local veterans from the south Davis communities of Bountiful, Centerville, North Salt Lake, West Bountiful and Woods Cross. The city of Bountiful provided the land and will be responsible for maintaining the facility.
The park was conceived and built with the idea of paying homage to Utahns who wore the U.S. military uniform for the sake and safety of every citizen in the Beehive State and across the country, explained Bountiful Veterans Park Foundation board member Osmond Seangsuwan.
“When people come and visit the park, we hope they not only understand and feel the reverence, but also recognize the sacrifices that all these veterans and their families made for us,” he said at the flag-raising ceremony. “We also hope they feel gratitude, and honor all the people that sacrifice for our country.”
The park will include educational elements where visitors can learn about the life stories of individual veterans from Utah, as well as about the conflicts and events that occurred to help America become the nation it has become, he said. It will also include various bronze statues and granite displays with the names of Utah veterans inscribed on them.
“They’ll see all the beautiful monuments that have been put together and we hope that people understand that freedom isn’t free,” Seangsuwan said. “There’s a lot of things that we still have to do to ensure that we maintain our freedoms.”
Seangsuwan added that a center monument will represent the complexities involved in fighting for freedom and independence with so many human lives at stake.
“It represents all the battles and conflicts that have taken place. When people see it, they’ll see the beauty of it, the flag, the stars. There’s helmets of each of the conflicts, so we want them to see how beautiful it is but also how sad,” he said. “You’ll see a lady looking at all these helmets. What people should feel when they look at it is, “This is what it took to get our freedom. This is the sacrifice people made for us.”
For foundation board member and park designer Rob Vandergrift, the park represents the culmination of years of work and fortitude to raise money to get the project off the drawing board and into reality. The initial phase of the project cost about $1.5 million, with another $700,000 to $800,000 needed to complete it, he said.
Though not a veteran himself, Vandergrift comes from two generations of military members in his immediate family. He said this project has been special to him and he hopes it will be special to park visitors for years to come.
“This park is going to affect many, many people. I’ve witnessed it here already. Veterans come in just weeping (after) seeing their name on a paper or on the wall. There’s just been so much excitement with families coming to see their loved ones engraved on this granite wall,” he said.
“We just wanted to make this park so unique that it becomes a destination point for not only Bountiful and the surrounding area, but a destination point for Utahns and people around the country.”
Meanwhile, the state’s top elected officials voiced their appreciation for current and former military members at the state Capitol on Veterans Day.
“In Utah, we proudly honor and recognize all those who have worn the uniform. Today and every day we salute and thank veterans in Utah for their sacrifice,” said Gov. Gary Herbert. “Thank you for inspiring us to rise and meet the challenges of our time and for paving the way for our children and our grandchildren to be able to meet theirs.”
Members of Utah’s congressional delegation also expressed their gratitude via social media.
“On Veterans Day, we honor all of the brave men and women who have served our nation—standing for American values in our country, and around the globe. What a debt of gratitude we owe to each of them for their service,” said Sen. Mitt Romney in a Twitter post. “We must also take time to remember those whose lives have been cut short in great sacrifice for our country. With a deep sense of appreciation, I want to say thank you — on behalf of me and my family — to all of the men and women who have dedicated their lives to helping our country remain safe and free. May God bless you all.”
“America owes its veterans and their families an enormous debt of gratitude for putting themselves at risk to protect our rights and freedoms. Some have made the ultimate sacrifice to safeguard our lives, and for that, Americans will be forever grateful,” said Sen. Mike Lee on his Senate website.
“Happy Veterans Day to all of you veterans thank you so much for your service for your sacrifice for your commitment to our country. Thanks to your families, and to the people who loved and supported you as you served,” Rep. Chris Stewart said on Facebook.
“Please join me in expressing gratitude for all of America’s veterans. We are thankful for their service and sacrifice to our nation. Happy Veterans Day!” Rep. Ben McAdams posted on Facebook.