Saturday, November 1, 2014

Colorado XIV

Deep in the wilderness of Colorado, hidden from most, is a memorial that almost never happened.

The dream of a vet to honor his fellow soldiers is a most interesting story. Unfortunately, it is being told poorly all over the internet. I will do my very best to tell it here, as accurately as possible.

Not so very long ago, six months perhaps a year, this very special place was nearly unknown. Then a video popped up, made by a off road biker, showing the monument and talking about how "no one knew where it came from" or "Who built it"

Here it was, out in the middle of nowhere and it was quite a mystery. In fact, someone began calling it The Mystery Memorial or the Secret Memorial.

Well, in truth, while it is isolated and hard to get to, it is neither a mystery nor a secret. It is known who built it, when and why. It took some research but the information is, in fact, out there.

The memorial, called Soldierstone, was built by Col. Stuart Beckley to honor all those who served and were lost in Vietnam. He did not want to make any political statement: he only wanted to create a place of solitude, respect and mourning.

Col. Beckley searched for quite some time to locate a suitable place to build the memorial. He had a favorite spot but could not get permission to build there. In 1995 he was losing his battle with cancer, he made one last plea and permission was finally granted.

Col. Beckley honored his fellow Vietnam vets, but he did much more, too. He honored, as I said above, all who served there. More on that later

I tried to visit in May but there was so much snow on the ground that it was impossible. I asked a Forest Ranger from the area when I might be able to get in to area, without hesitation, he said "August" so I determined to return in August.

I was visiting friends who live in Colorado and was completely surprised by the amount of preparation required. In my mind we were going to drive a few hours to the area and then spend some time in what was, admittedly, a wilderness area, but still, I thought, we'll drive in, take the pics and drive out. Well, people who live there see things a little differently. We packed sleeping bags, a tent, first aid kit, tarps, 5 gallons of water, tools, emergency rations and all kinds of stuff I would have never considered. I guess that is what happens when a guy from the east goes west!

The site is some twenty miles in to the wilderness and it turns out that all went well and we did not need all the stuff or even, the four wheel drive, but it was easy to see that IF we had needed it, it would have been very important to have taken the time to prepare properly.

After arriving in the general area, we stopped at local Ranger Station and the Ranger there spent quite some time showing us how to find our way to the site. He, also, told us that prior to the appearance of the bikers video he had, maybe, two people a year ask about this site. Since then, he gets two requests a week and that in fact we were the second request that day and it was only Wednesday. He told us that the local officials had taken notice of the increase in interest and had started to make extra effort to ensure the safety of the memorial. A small split rail fence prevents vehicles from getting too close and a sign or two have been added asking for care and respect.

Vehicles can get to within about a half a mile of the site. You can see it from there and simply hike in. The ground is a little rough and full of cow pies, a bit of a surprise, but we had seen a few cattle along the way.

The memorial, itself, appears to be a tower of seven stacked, finished, stones that resemble boxes. Upon most of the faces of these stones is engraved text in various languages. I have seen at least one other memorial that consisted of seven stacked, rectangular stones, but have been unable to learn if this has a particular meaning or just a coincidence. My friend suggested that it might be biblical, so I found a site that lists every verse from the old or new testaments that mention stone or rock (yeah, there really is such a site) but there is nothing that refers to seven stacked stones.

So, now on to a few pictures.

These are some initial views, there is much more to show and talk about so, please check back on the 6th of November for more. As usual, we will meet at 9:00am.

To see other memorials from Colorado, or any other state, click the state name on the left side of this page.

No comments:

Post a Comment