AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – The number is huge but nothing compares to seeing it in a physical display. Since Colorado became a state, more than 6,200 men and women from here have died serving our country. For the fifth year in a row, volunteers placed glass luminaria at the Colorado Freedom Memorial representing each one.
The specific number; 6,205 Coloradans have lost their lives, while serving our country since the Spanish-American war.
“To me, this light is what captures perfectly just the magnitude of loss, right?” said Rick Crandall, president and founder of the Colorado Freedom Memorial Foundation. “I can tell school kids all day long, ‘6,200 Coloradans have been killed in action since we became a state’ and okay, it’s a number, but when they come out and see it this way…”
For the past five years, the Colorado Freedom Memorial has honored fallen Colorado heroes with this “Light Their Way Home” event. It’s one of two major events at CFM, honoring those who have sacrificed their lives on the battlefield.
Cold temperatures Thursday didn’t keep volunteers from making sure lights were shining for each place.
“I feel happy but sad at the same time; to see how much veterans have served and have fought and died for us and it’s just a really incredible honor and I just love being here,” said Kate McKinnon, a fourth grader at Indian Hills Elementary.
McKinnon is student council vice president. It’s her second year volunteering at the event and she says she wouldn’t miss it for the world.
“If somebody’s nervous to go here on this cold cold day, I just try and encourage them and like say, you’re doing it for the right thing,” she said.
Once the sun goes down, the site, McKinnon says, is unforgettable.
“I think ‘Thank you for your service.'”
It’s exactly the kind of reaction Crandall hopes the event sparks.
“This is important, and I think the week before Thanksgiving, you know, as we’re thinking about all the things we’re grateful for, to come here for a little bit and say ‘You know what? I’m grateful for this, too,'” he said.
The Colorado Freedom Memorial is located at 756 Telluride Street just east of the intersection between 6th Avenue and Airport Boulevard. The “Light Their Way Home” display starts at 5 p.m. and continues through 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Visit www.coloradofreedommemorial.com for more information.