The Anthem Veterans Memorial: One-of-a-kind monument celebrates five years honoring the men and women of the United States military
One-of-a-kind monument celebrates five years honoring the men and women of the United States military.
By Sondra Barr
Photos courtesy of Mike Spinelli, Jack Dose, Shannon Fisher, and the Anthem Community Council.
With a name like Anthem, it’s no surprise that the 85086 community is patriotic. So when retired United States Navy Rear Adm. Ron Tucker shared his idea to honor veterans with a one-of-a-kind monument with community leaders, they thought the idea was a perfect fit for Anthem.
Dedicated on Nov. 11, 2011, the Anthem Veterans Memorial pillars stand as a point of pride for the community and honors the service of our nation’s military forces. The memorial serves as a point of pride and reflection for veterans, their family and friends, and those who wish to show their respect to the service men and women who have and continue to courageously serve our country. Each year, at precisely 11:11 a.m. on Veterans Day, the sun’s rays pass through the ellipses of the five pillars to form a perfect solar spotlight over the mosaic of the Great Seal of the United States. It’s a unique tribute to the men and women who sacrificed for our country. The best part, it’s right here in our neighborhood.
As the fifth anniversary of the award-winning memorial approaches, the community is gearing up for a patriotic celebration like no other. “This ceremony is going to be an historic moment in Anthem,” says Elizabeth Turner, a volunteer for the Anthem Veterans Memorial Support Team. “We’ve never had a ceremony here of this caliber. We’ve never had the number of speakers before, the amount of music, a pancake breakfast, and more. It’s one of those moments in a town, in a state, where you want to be here because we’re doing the right thing for veterans.”
The ceremony, hosted by the Anthem Community Council and the Anthem Veterans Memorial Support Team, begins at 10 a.m. on Fri., Nov. 11 at the memorial, located in the Anthem Community Park at 41703 N. Gavilan Peak Parkway. The patriotic program will honor the service of all veterans and their families and pay special tribute to veterans of the Gulf War in honor of the 25th anniversary year of that war.
No doubt, when Ron had the idea in 2009 for a monument in Anthem, he likely didn’t anticipate just how receptive the community––or the world––would be to a unique veterans memorial. But, from the onset, the project captured the attention and skills of some very talented people (both locally and beyond). The memorial has since gone on to win numerous awards and was designated as an Historic Marker by the Arizona Historical Society on May 14, 2012.
“We were in a gourmet dinner club with four couples and we talked regularly every month,” says Renee Palmer-Jones, who was one of the first to hear Ron’s idea. “Apparently he (Ron) didn’t know any other artists,” laughs Renee, a local artist who lent her considerable artistic talents to the project. “He asked me, ‘Hey, have you ever designed a memorial?’ I said, ‘no,’ I’m a painter primarily, but I bet I could. What do you have in mind?”
After hearing his idea, Renee started sketching on a cocktail napkin during dinner and came up with the basic concept that incorporated the sun and its unique angles. Over the next few weeks, she refined the design and sketched various configurations that utilized the sun’s specific position at precisely 11:11 a.m. every Nov. 11 until she came up with the more concrete configuration of the pillars, elliptical openings, and mosaic.
“Two or three weeks later I refined it a bit and took it to Ron,” says Renee, who sought to design something entirely unique yet classical in structure.
A testament to her skill, the finished memorial looks very similar to her preliminary cocktail napkin sketch.
Meanwhile, Ron approached his friends, Jim Martin and Steve Rusch, to bring the design to life. As the chief engineer and volunteer, Jim determined the mathematic calculations to shape Renee’s designs. Meanwhile, Steve built a scale model to illustrate the vision.
“We started the build in the summer of 2010,” says Elizabeth, who chaired the initial fundraising, media, dedication ceremony, and marketing efforts with assistance from Yvonne Dolby and Barbara Dose.
According to her, Ron’s idea quickly turned into reality. “The council voted in favor of going ahead with the project. They also provided the guarantee that should we not have the funds raised by the time of the dedication that they would cover it until the funds could be raised. Luckily that didn’t happen; we were able to raise the money,” she says.
“As for the construction, there was a bit of a learning curve because none of us were builders,” says Renee, who credits Haydon Building Corp’s construction expertise and coordination as integral to the project’s completion by a Nov. 11, 2011 deadline. “We almost didn’t get the monument built in time because we had a supplier issue with the marble.
According to Renee, the crew at Haydon jumped in at the 11th hour to save the day and make sure the memorial was ready for its grand unveiling to the community.
“We owe a lot to them,” agrees Elizabeth. She points out that Haydon donated a great portion of the cost of construction.
“It was about a $400,00 project. All of that money was raised by either in-kind donations, which was a lot of the construction; the benches; the stainless steel work; the emblem. The rest of the $150,000 was done through different and private citizens donations,” explains Elizabeth.
The memorial features five marble pillars representing the five branches of the United States military. Each of the pillars is staggered by height with their appropriate military seal placements on each pillar based upon the Department of Defense prescribed precedence. Surrounding the Great Seal of the United States are brick pavers within the Circle of Honor inscribed with the names of U.S. serviceman and women, symbolizing the ‘support’ for their contributions.
“I take the Paver Lane very seriously, because that is the story behind the memorial, it’s the veteran’s story and we want to honor each one of them carefully and respectfully,” says Elizabeth.
Veteran pavers identify the name, rank, service branch, and years entering and exiting the service. They are available for $150 each, with $117 of that donation going to the Anthem Way Foundation for the educational programing and maintenance of the memorial.
“The pavers take about eight weeks to come back to us. They’re engraved by a company up in California,” says Elizabeth, who helps personally contact the veterans and their families who’ve ordered a paver in that batch. They’re invited to Paver Lane for a ceremony where Elizabeth gives a brief talk about the history of the memorial and then she calls out each veteran’s name, along with their branch, rank, and service years. Then, the veteran or their family member lays the paver.
“We have room for approximately 2,400 pavers and we have approximately 1,500 laid,” explains Elizabeth. Of the 1,500, there are 42 states represented, along with four countries. “We have some from Austria, Great Britain, Canada, and Australia,” she says.
Plans are being discussed to expand the project to include more pavers, when the time comes. According to Renee, they’re looking for ways to expand the circle without changing the basic design of the memorial. “The future can take on a whole different character and how it fits in the park. We have to constantly be looking at the aesthetics and the original design,” says Renee. “Things pop up, soil moves, ground shifts. We have to keep on top of all the structures there.”
As for maintenance of the memorial, it’s cleaned roughly every six months. This year, it’s going to be re-caulked.
“BrightView Landscapes has donated all the landscaping since the dedication. And, they maintain the landscaping for us. That includes all the new plantings and everything that has been done recently, says Elizabeth.
Of course, the AVM will looks its best as the community gathers around it during the fifth anniversary celebration on Veterans Day. Special programming will commemorate the occasion including a keynote address from retired Adm. Paul David Miller. Among the 15 speakers are representatives from every service branch to say a few words about the history of that branch. There will also be veterans who will talk about World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, and the War on Terror. The parents of a Marine will also speak to honor families of veterans, along with an active duty Marine who will address active duty veterans.
“For the Veterans Day Ceremony, we also have a section dedicated to what we call the Veteran’s Perspective. It’s a unique story by a veteran that coincides with the theme for that year. This year the Daisy Mountain Veterans are honoring the Gulf War veterans,” says Elizabeth. “We try to link to their theme whenever we can, so we invited local Josh Miller, who is a Marine who served in the Gulf War, to provide the Veteran’s Perspective.
“The AVM is unique in that it honors all veterans from the inception of our country to right now. It doesn’t selectively chose a certain group or branch of service,” says Renee, who says that many groups have embraced it as a personal memorial.
“Every year we continue to get more media attention. People are fascinated by the memorial,” says Renee. “That’s exactly the intention––to bring attention to veterans. If it means they see a cool structure and they think about veterans on Veterans Day, that’s exactly why we built it.”
Arizona Historic Landmark Designation 2012––Arizona Historical Society
Arizona Public Works Project of the Year Award 2012––Arizona Chapter of the American Public Works Association
ACEC 2012 Grand Award––Best Engineering and Environmental Consulting Project
AVM Designer Donates Commemorative Painting
By Kristi Northcutt
AVM designer Renee Palmer-Jones created an original painting commemorating the fifth anniversary of the Anthem Veterans Memorial. The painting, The AVM Spirit, will be auctioned Nov. 2 at 6 p.m. as part of the Art in Public Places opening at the Anthem Civic Building.
The piece is a multimedia painting on canvas. A combination of three different potential concepts was the inspiration for the piece. Renee aimed to reflect the beauty of the five armed services pillars, without the structure itself dominating the purpose of the AVM, which is to honor veterans.
“I focused on a classically spiritual rendering of the AVM. It is bathed in a symbolic light that is derived from veterans’ service and sacrifice, as it is they who light our journey of freedom,” says the artist.
The primary composition is acrylic paint with metallics and a fiber photograph. The canvas is matte varnished, acrylic sealed, and framed by Steve Rusch, local resident and original AVM draftsman. The painting will be unveiled to launch the Anthem Community Council’s Public Art program.
A partnership with the Sonoran Arts League, the Art in Public Places program features artwork from North Valley artists throughout the public spaces in the Civic Building. The Nov. 2 event will give the public an opportunity to tour the art, visit with artists showcased, and enjoy live music by Paradise Valley Community College Faculty Jazz Ensemble. Rotary Club of Anthem will provide a cash bar at the event.
Attendees will have the opportunity to add the AVM painting to their collection at the event. Proceeds will benefit the AVM Honor a Veteran program and ongoing educational programming at the memorial.
Anthem Veterans Memorial Fifth Anniversary Celebration
What you need to know about this year’s ceremony.
When: Fri., Nov. 11, 2016. A special fundraising pancake breakfast hosted by St. Rose Knights of Columbus kicks off the festivities at 8 a.m. ($5 adults, $1 children), the main event starts at 10 a.m.
Logistics: The ceremony is expected to last about 70 minutes and lead directly to the 11:11 a.m. solar spotlight at the AVM (viewable via LED screens). Seating and parking are limited. The lot adjacent to the memorial is reserved for ADA and credential parking only. The middle and lower lots at the park, accessible from Gavilan Peak Parkway and Whitman Drive, will be open; offsite parking is available at the shopping plaza across from the park. Shuttles will run from Boulder Creek High School’s parking lot from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., and return from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Local residents are encouraged to walk, bike, or carpool to the event. Attendees are encouraged to arrive early; bring lawn chairs and water; wear red, white and blue; and bring small hand-held U.S. flags.
Ceremony Overview: Addresses by noteworthy veterans; enhanced viewing through LED screens, including the 11:11 solar spotlight (attendees will not be allowed to approach the memorial for safety purposes); a pre-ceremony breakfast; patriotic music by ProMusica Arizona, Musical Theatre of Anthem, and an all Anthem/New River school youth choir; a Thank a Veteran card-writing station, and military aircraft flyovers.
Speakers: Retired Adm. Paul David Miller will deliver the keynote address. A highly decorated Navy officer, he served as the Director of Naval Warfare on the staff of Chief of Naval Operations. After receiving a fourth star, he became Commander of the Atlantic Fleet. He was appointed as Chief of the U.S. Atlantic Command and served concurrently as the NATO Supreme Allied Commander-Atlantic until his retirement in October 1994. Anthem’s Josh Miller, United States Marine Corps, will provide his Veteran’s Perspective as a Gulf War veteran. The Master of Ceremonies will be retired Lt. Col. John Simmons, United States Air Force and Commander of the Jr. Air Force ROTC at Sandra Day O’Connor High School in Phoenix. The Jr. AFROTC have assisted at every ceremony at the Anthem Veterans Memorial since its dedication in 2011.
LOCAL MILITARY HEROES
Lt. Col. John Simmons
Retired Lt. Col. John Simmons has been involved with the AVM since the inaugural ceremony five years ago. This year, he’ll serve as Master of Ceremonies. He served 21 years in the United States Air Force. During his tenure in the Air Force, he was an F-111 and F-15E Instructor Weapon Systems Officer with over 2,500 flight hours and more than 40 combat sorties in Iraq. He retired in July 2006 to become the Jr. Air Force ROTC Senior Aerospace Science Instructor at Sandra Day O’Connor School.
“My goal as the Senior Aerospace Science Instructor at Sandra Day O’Connor High School is to teach the cadets about taking personal responsibility for their lives, and to serve their country and community,” says John. “We have done many things. We have cadets stand at attention next to the monument in their dress uniforms with sabers and rifles. Cadets also have held the service flags and line the walk way holding U.S. flags. They pass out programs and at the end of the ceremony they form a protective ring around the memorial. This is my first time I have the honor to act as Master of Ceremonies. Wish me luck!”
John and his previous assistant (Master Sgt. Michael Shimkus) were presented with an AVM paver last October by Elizabeth Turner on behalf of the Anthem Memorial Committee in appreciation for their service. “It was done in front of our senior class cadets, which meant a lot to me,” he says. “I was very proud to have received this honor. I have seen many memorials around the world and the Anthem Memorial is easily the most unique, beautiful, yet modest monument to our veterans.”
“I see it as a reminder of the sacrifices American service people have made to preserve our freedom and way of life. It’s a great tool to educate our youth about the meaning of Veterans Day. Many of my high school students do not initially know the purpose of Veterans Day. Many do not know which day it falls on or the significance of the time the Armistice was enacted. It may be the first time they fully realize what others have sacrificed for our nation,” he says.
Sgt. Josh Miller
Anthem’s own Josh Miller, a former sergeant in the United States Marine Corps, will provide his Veteran’s Perspective as a Gulf War veteran during this year’s ceremony. Josh entered the Marine Reserves in 1988. When the Gulf War began, his Marine Corps anti-tank unit was activated and mobilized to northern Saudi Arabia. After the Gulf War, Josh was honorably discharged in 1995. He and his wife, Nanette, moved to Anthem in 2000. In 2006, he returned to Iraq as a security contractor with DynCorp.
Nanette surprised Josh with a paver at the AVM a couple of years ago and he says he looks at the memorial with a lot in mind. “I think about the sacrifices that a lot of men and women have made,” says Josh. “There’s a great deal of admiration for all the services across the board.”
Sgt. Chuck Hale
Sgt. Chuck Hale served in the United States Marine Corps. His wife and daughter got a AVM paver for him this year for Father’s Day. “It is a very special tribute from my family and will mean so much more than my military service,” says Chuck.
“I’ve been in Anthem since 1999 and having a part of our family’s history etched into the memorial is an honor and makes me a much prouder member of this abundant community,” he says. “It represents that we have a lot of members of our community to thank for their service to our already great nation.”
Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Smeltz
Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Smeltz is an Army recruiter in Anthem. “Prior to having the recruiter assignment, I was a combat engineer, so I dealt with explosives,” says Matthew, who was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan to be an engineer.
Matthew discovered he had a hidden talent after he was fortunate enough to go to mine detection dog school. “I learned how to train a dog to find landmines,” he says. He brought Aya, a retired German Sheppard from the program, to Anthem with him. “Now, as a recruiter, what I do here is I try to find young people to join the Army. I’ll be doing that for three more years then I go back to canine,” he says.
He’s currently in the process of securing pavers for himself, his brother (who’s also in the Army), and Aya. Aya would be the first canine honored with an AVM paver, which he’s excited about. “She did almost seven years in the Army and she did two deployments to Afghanistan,” says Matthew. He points out that a lot of the canines don’t get recognized as much as the soldiers do and that they go through a lot of the same training.
Matthew will be speaking on behalf of the global war on terrorism during this year’s Veterans Day ceremony, where he’ll be sharing the stage with Aya.
Capt. Joe Torres
Capt. Joe Torres shares an incredible honor with his father-in-law. They have pavers side-by-side at the AVM.
“He was in the Army and I’m still in the Army Reserves,” says Joe, who joined active duty Army from 1994 to 2000. “I didn’t want to give up all the time I’d already committed, so I joined the reserves in 2000.”
Joe says the AVM has been a good way to connect with his father-in-law, Harold Robinson, and to bond over their military life––Harold served in Vietnam and Joe served in Afghanistan.
Joe also sees the AVM as a great way to teach his young daughters (9 and 10) about history. “This is a great way for the kids to actually see different symbols of patriotism other than saying the Pledge of Allegiance at school or singing the National Anthem at a sporting event,” says Joe. “The memorial solidifies what the city name is––Anthem.”
5th Anniversary Sponsors
Anthem Golf & Country Club (JR Rosenbluth)
Elizabeth and Harry Turner
Clare Kallsen & Larry West (in honor of the Vashon 12)
Dale & Ray Norris
Southwest Sedan Service, LLC
Big Orange Bus
PostNet of Anthem
J&R Branding Solutions
Mike Spinelli Photography
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