On Memorial Day, Pasadena will unveil a statue that will serve as an enduring, everyday reminder of the 11 area soldiers — including five with La Cañada Flintridge ties — who gave their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 15 years.
“So few carry a burden for so many,” said Jaynie Studenmund, a resident of LCF whose son, Scott, a Green Beret, was killed in Gaza Village, Afghanistan, on June 9, 2014.
“We have an all-volunteer military and less than one-half of 1% are in the military, let alone a smaller number who fight in combat. And all 11 of our ‘Enduring Heroes’ were willing to make that sacrifice for us.
“They wanted to ensure the kind of freedoms that we enjoy over Memorial Day and every day. So it’s important that we take time, not just on Memorial Day, but every day, to remember that there are people who have given their lives, and many active-duty in the military who continue to do whatever they can to keep our country safe.”
The Enduring Heroes sculpture, by artist Christopher Slatoff, depicts a combat soldier triumphantly holding the American flag. The figure, 8 feet tall, was inspired by each of the 11 local soldiers who were lost, including Studenmund (Army), 1st Lt. Todd Bryant, (Army), 2nd Lt. J.P. Blecksmith (Marines), Reserve Spc. Carla Stewart (Army) and Sgt. Joseph Stifter (Army), who all either attended schools in LCF or lived in the city.
The monument honoring them will stand on the corner of Colorado Boulevard and Orange Grove Boulevard in Defenders Park, across the intersection from the flagpole paying homage to World War I soldiers.
Its dedication on Monday, May 20, will take place at 3 p.m. in the park. Gold Star families, friends, donors, local government and business leaders will be in attendance at the event, which is open to the public.
Gold Star father Ed Blecksmith, whose son graduated from Flintridge Prep, will speak, as will Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek, Congressman Adam Schiff and keynote speaker Lt. Col. David Diamond, who is the special assistant to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for special operations at the Pentagon.
The Enduring Heroes committee was comprised of a dedicated assortment of local people, including the Gold Star families, who bonded over the three years it took to make the vision a reality, Studenmund said. Shelly Lowe, the mother of an active-duty Army officer, led the charge and also will speak at the dedication.
Together, the group raised $600,000 from corporations and individuals to fund the monument, Studenmund said.
“We all believe that our sons and our daughter, and their other colleagues, are watching and have guided us,” she said. “We’re very careful to never use the word, ‘fallen,’ because these are not fallen. It’s what we like about the statue — the statue is triumphantly brandishing an American flag. We believe our soldiers are above and are continuing to do good things, and that they’re certainly not fallen.”
Not fallen, enduring.