By Jeff Todd
DENVER (CBS4) – A Denver foundation is hoping to bring more honor and dignity to many of the funerals for veterans at Fort Logan National Cemetery.
“I was waiting for the military guard to show up. They never did,” said Louis Olivera, a former Army Ranger and the Executive Director of the Honor Bell Foundation. “Right then and there I said, ‘We’ve got to do better for our veterans.’”
Olivera realized the government was cutting funding for military honors at funerals during a time when there are thousands of funerals each year. In May the first Honor Bell was forged in Ohio.
“Originally we thought it would be something small, about the size of a pie plate, and then as we looked into it. It needed to be a certain tone, a certain musical note and that note is ‘A.’ You ring a bell for joy and you toll a bell for sorrow. When you hear the bell toll you will know it’s for sorrowful occasion,” Olivera said. “The Honor Bell will be tolled seven times to honor the service and sacrifice of our veterans.”
For the first bell, 12 veterans’ families donated their medals to be part of the bell. The foundation calls it forged from honor.
“We have artifacts from World War II, Korea, Vietnam and The War on Terror — both Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of those are killed in action soldiers and Marines. Each time the bell tolls a little piece of Colorado’s history and veterans who have served will go with it,” Olivera said.
The first tolling occurred on Armed Forces Day as part of the ceremony before the Cincinnati Reds game. Then the bell was escorted by police and Patriot Guard riders all the way back to Denver.
The bell is available for any family that requests it at their Veteran’s funeral in Fort Logan. In a few years the foundation hopes to have a permanent structure for the bell but government rules are slowing down the donation to the cemetery.
The Bell Honor Guard is made up of veterans but the foundation is looking for more volunteers.
“Hopefully it will help them integrate better with society, bring them back to the honor they once felt as part of the military,” Olivera said.
Until it has a permanent home at Fort Logan the Honor Bell Foundation hopes to take the bell to schools as well.
“We’ll take this bell along with the veterans who toll it and we’ll go to middle schools, elementary school and bring a curriculum and teach the honor and the value of military service,” Olivera said.
LINK: Honor Bell Foundation
Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he’s been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.