Military heritage stands proud here, where war veterans are finishing an elaborate monument to their dead.
REST} Guarding the entrance to the city cemetery, the first of five statues in full military uniform stands in front of the new memorial monument just inside the gates. The seven-eighths size statue of a soldier in full combat gear, including a Gerund M-1 rifle, is the work of local sculptor Kelly Peterson.
Eventually four more statues will grace the five points of the large star-shaped foundation, representing all five branches of the military. A statue of a woman in military dress will represent the U.S. Coast Guard.
By Memorial Day the yearlong project will be nearly finished. By then, said monument chairman Robert Hutchings, a statue of a sailor representing the U.S. Navy will be in place. The remaining three honoring the Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard should be complete by the end of fall.
"It's been an education to get to know these guys," Peterson said of the veterans who commissioned the work. "These are the guys who built the country. I'm impressed with their unselfishness and how they have a bond my generation doesn't have."
A full-time sculptor, Peterson, 38, said it takes about three to four months to complete each statue.
The American flag flies atop the monument's center pole; five flags representing each branch of service surround it, positioned behind where each statue will stand.
The American flag is changed about every two months. Each flag that goes up belongs to a deceased veteran's family. The tradition of flying a serviceman's flag started a year ago, said Hutchings.
Nila Argyle requested that the flag of her late husband, Gerald, fly above the monument. Since then, said Hutchings, 13 more requests have been made. "We'll continue to fly them as long as we receive them," Hutchings said. "This has grown into quite a thing."
War veterans will soon put in place a black granite monument nearby that will carry the names of all residents buried there who fought in any war, including the War with Mexico, the Indian wars and the Civil War. Included is Albert Dimmick, mortally wounded in a skirmish with Indians in what became known as the Diamond Fork War in 1866.
At least three members of the original Mormon Battalion are buried there, said Hutchings.
Adding names will be a continuing process as the veterans die. The names of Spanish Fork servicemen who died in action and whose bodies were never recovered will also be engraved on the black wall, according to family wishes.
The names of servicemen buried elsewhere will not be on the monument. But families who donate $1,000 or more in their name can have them remembered on another new monument that lists donors. That monument will have a directory to the names on the black granite.
Thus far, 960 names will be engraved on the black granite, a mini version of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. "It will be installed when the weather breaks," said Hutchings.
Not only was money donated to build the edifice, so was the labor of many local veterans.
The monument has attracted about $150,000 in donations, while donated labor equals about $100,000, said Hutchings. The latest donation, $35,000, came from Utah County's Tourism and Recreation fund, or restaurant tax. City officials applied for the county money last May.
"We won't turn anyone away who wants to donate," said Hutchings. "It's a humbling experience to receive that money." Donations have come from family members, even widows who couldn't afford it, he said.
Many of the donations have come with tears. "They do this with real strong emotions. It's a feeling they have that they want to do something to have their family members remembered. It's kids (donating) in the name of the fathers, brothers for their brother" and widows for their husbands, he said. "(They're saying,) I want them do be remembered. It's a real emotional thing. It's been super."
He said, "We don't realize all these men went through. "The stories you hear and how (their families) feel now - they think so much of that monument that they want to donate. It really chokes you up.
"It's more than a monument. It's a remembrance. It's like they're saying, don't forget me. I did what I could do. Don't forget me."