By Rhonda Kozacik
Special to The Outlook
The Enduring Heroes monument, sculpted by noted local artist Christopher Slatoff, pays permanent tribute to the 11 combat heroes from the Greater Pasadena area, who gave their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Each Memorial Day, since the dedication in 2017, many have gathered at the valiant soldier in remembrance of the brave warriors, but clearly 2020 was different.
Respecting the city’s social distancing requirements, visitors honored our Enduring Heroes quietly. Along with a patriotic wreath, each warrior has a banner that hangs along Orange Grove and Green Street, near Defender’s Parkway, through the Fourth of July. The banner for Marine Lance Cpl. Dion Whitley, who was tragically killed in action 15 years ago on June 15, 2005, looks across Orange Grove, standing guard over the Enduring Heroes Soldier. The individual banners will proudly wave again from the anniversary of 9/11 through Veterans Day.
On Memorial Day, neighbors to the monument shared that many stopped by for a moment of meaningful reflection, some placing flowers or a flag. In a particularly poignant moment, a solitary bugler stopped by the monument to play taps. Dr. Shelly Lowe, chair of the Enduring Heroes Committee noted, “As I was placing flags at the base of Enduring Heroes this Memorial Day, it was heartwarming to see people come by on their own to pay respects, reflect and draw inspiration from the monument. Enduring Heroes has become a place where people come to pay tribute to our warriors and the many who serve our country.”
This Memorial Day also marked the launching of the Enduring Heroes website, designed with love by a proud uncle of one of the honored warrior heroes. This website includes biographies for the 11 warriors: Army First Lt. Todd Bryant, Marine Second Lt. J.P. Blecksmith, Marine Lance Cpl. Dion M. Whitley, Marine Lance Cpl. Sergio H. Escobar, Army Reserve Specialist Carla Jan Stewart, Army Specialist Adam J. Rosema, Army Private First Class Cory F. Hiltz, Marine Lance Cpl Rogelio A. Ramirez, Army Specialist William J. Gilbert, Army Green Beret SSG Scott R. Studenmund and Army Sgt. Joseph F. Stifter.
Visitors will find videos reflecting upon the creation of the monument, and revisiting the dedication ceremony, May 29, 2017. The EH website also provides directions to the memorial, past and upcoming events at the monument site. Irene Ramirez, proud mother of Rogelio Ramirez, who was killed in action on Aug. 26, 2007, in Iraq, warmly commented that she thinks the website “is great. I can see and feel the love that went into this beautiful dedication of these amazing heroes, who we call our children. To all they are warriors, but to us they are and will always be ‘Our Children.’” Visit EnduringHeroes.us for further information.
Enduring Heroes is becoming an impactful Pasadena landmark, well beyond Memorial Day. The location in Defenders Parkway, by the Colorado Street Bridge, and the iconic beginning of the Rose Parade provides for tremendous community activity throughout the year. Multiple local veterans groups have gathered at the monument’s site for special tributes. Neighbors, walkers and runners from Pasadena visit the Enduring Heroes Soldier as a regular part of their day. Defenders Parkway serves as a quiet, beautiful place to reflect on our Hometown Heroes. The Soldier Monument, honoring the War on Terror warriors, looks across Colorado diagonally toward the Goodhue Flagpole, honoring all warriors. This marks a timeless connection with those who have given their lives in the name of freedom.
The EH Committee continues to look for ways to enhance the monument’s surroundings, always in tribute to our 11 warrior heroes. Soft, graceful lighting was added to the monument base so that the soldier can welcome and be seen by evening visitors. The monument base was augmented with beautiful flagstone, encasing the added lighting. Members of the EH Committee, along with a close group of the Gold Star Families, share in ongoing care of the monument, gathering together three times a year, when the memorial is polished. Fresh flower wreaths with the appropriate holiday theme are placed by the soldier eight times throughout the year.