For Veterans Day this year, I decided to go out and visit some of the unique Veterans Memorials around Arizona. It’s a time to honor those who served in the US Armed Forces, and having so many family members myself in the military, I decided to join in the celebrations here in Arizona.
American Indian National Veterans Memorial
In front of the Heard Museum in Downtown Phoenix lays the first and only known American Indian veterans memorial. On its walls, divided by war, lists the Native Americans who perished in those wars. It also chronicles their involvement in armed conflicts since the 17th, with a poem (Do Not Stand on My Grave and Weep by Mary Elizabeth Frye) and a special section for Medal of Honor recipients. The most interesting part is the statue: It was constructed by two men by the names of Allan Houser and Michael Naranjo. The statue was Houser’s last, and Naranjo, blinded by an injury he received in the Vietnam War, carved the sculpture by feel. He also designed all of his sculptures to be felt, so if you visit the memorial, close your eyes and run your fingers along the statue to try and see what Naranjo did.
Anthem Veterans Memorial
A short drive north of Phoenix is Anthem, which hosts the Anthem Veterans Memorial, known for its solar spotlight phenomenon. Every Veterans Day at exactly 11:11 in the morning, the holes in the pillars (each representing a different branch of the US military) line up to focus the sun’s rays onto the seal of the United States. There is a huge celebration in the park every year. There is usually a pancake breakfast (which I was, sadly, too late for) followed by a large ceremony. In it, they recognize living service members from each of the wars. This year, there were still two veterans from World War II alive and present for the celebration. There were a few community awards, and then the keynote speaker. The park staff, wisely, roped off the memorial and set up cameras and large LED displays around the park so that everyone could watch the moment. I was lucky enough to be behind the memorial and snapped a few pictures.
Overall, it’s been a good time to reflect on the US and what it values. Given the turbulent and ugly election season, it was refreshing to push that out of the way for a moment to reflect on the lives of these individuals who chose to fight for our nation.