OGDEN — A Top of Utah duo is on a mission to ensure all Utahns who were wounded while serving their country won’t be forgotten.
Roy Resident John Cole and Pleasant View resident Jay Wells are working to complete a large Purple Heart Monument that is displayed prominently near the entrance of the George E. Wahlen Ogden Veterans Home.
The pair, who volunteer with the Northern Utah Chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, say there are already 1,149 names of Utah Purple Heart winners etched into several granite tablets at the veterans home, but four additional tablets are planned for the monument and they need to be filled with names.
“What we’re doing now, is trying to find every remaining man or woman from Utah, living or dead, who has been awarded the Purple Heart,” Wells said. “What they did needs to be remembered and their names need to be here at this monument.”
Wells and Cole, both Purple Heart award winners who were wounded in Vietnam and Korea respectively, said that the names presently etched in stone represent conflicts spanning from World War I all the way up to present day operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Wells said there are likely more than 1,500 Purple Heart winners in Utah who haven’t yet been added to the monument.
“We know there are still a lot of them out there,” he said. “So we’re trying to find them.”
Wells and Cole are asking Purple Heart veterans, or their family members, to send them copies of their DD Form 214, or Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty along with a phone number so the duo can verify a veteran’s receipt of the Purple Heart and then get their names placed on the monument.
“It’s kind of a long process, but we need those forms to make sure (the Purple Heart) is the real deal,” Cole said.
“We don’t want somebody to come by and say, ’Hey I served with this guy and he was never wounded,’” Wells added.
Cole said the final four granite tablets will likely be erected in the next two years. Each tablet costs more than $5,000, not including any charges for engraving. The price of the monument so far has exceeded $500,000 and has been paid for through fund raising drives and private donations.
When the four tablets are full of names and erected at the Wahlen Veterans Home, the project will continue at a veterans Home in Ivins, Utah.
”As long as our soldiers are still fighting and as long as we’re above the ground and we’re seeing the green of the grass and not underneath it looking at the roots, we’re going to keep (gathering names),“ Wells said of the project. ”What these (Purple Heart winners) did for their country can never be forgotten and this monument is part of that. Their names are going to be heard long, long after we’re all gone.“
The Purple Heart is a military decoration awarded by the president to soldiers wounded or killed, while serving, on or after April 5, 1917, with the U.S. military. It’s the oldest military award still given to U.S. military members
To donate to the project or get your name included on the monument, contact Wells at 801-791-5392 or Cole at 801-690-6837. DD 214 forms can be sent to 3266 N. 1325 West, Ogden, UT 84414 in care of Jay Wells.