Arizona Heroes Memorial: Oro Valley Project to Honor Military, 1st Responders, Healthcare

Oro Valley Project to Honor Military, First Responders and Healthcare Workers

By April Bourie

We all know and appreciate someone who is a first responder, in the healthcare field, in the military or is a veteran. To honor these heroes, a group of Oro Valley citizens is working to make the Arizona Heroes Memorial a reality.

The idea of the memorial came to Dick Eggerding, a community advocate living in Oro Valley, about five years ago. “I am a veteran of Korea myself,” explained Eggerding, now the president of the board working to build the memorial. “All of my family members have been in the military as well, and I value that service. What changed everything for me was 9/11. It made me realize that first responders were equally as important as the military because we were fighting a battle on our own soil. Those were real heroes in those twin towers, and that stuck with me.”

Eggerding had helped bring more public art to the Oro Valley area, pushing to dedicate 1% of the cost of construction projects to public art within the project. “The idea struck me that we could build a memorial as an art project in the town, and it would be great to place it in Naranja Park looking at the Catalina Mountains,” he said. The name of the memorial was to be the Southern Arizona Veterans & First Responders Living Memorial. 

He began to form a group of supporters for the memorial, which became the board for the project, and they worked with the Town of Oro Valley to dedicate 2½ acres in Naranja Park for the memorial. During this time, which board members refer to as Phase I, they were also able to create the first designs of the memorial, obtain the surveys needed to get the memorial built, and finish field site requirements. During this phase, the board raised $600,000 in financial and in-kind contributions.

Then COVID-19 hit, putting a pause on the fundraising for and building of the memorial. “Sometimes a little halt in something brings to the surface the really important things that need to be done,” said Lisa Hopper, Arizona Heroes Memorial executive director. “They recognized that healthcare workers needed to be included in this memorial.”

“We lost 3,900 healthcare workers due to COVID. That’s a dramatic thing,” said Eggerding. “They were working without vaccines, and they are heroes.”

“The memorial will be a hallowed place honoring those brave, outstanding individuals who have dedicated their lives to ensuring our American values and safety,” said Hopper. 

The updated design includes a 24-foot-high obelisk located at the center of the memorial, representing the strength and courage of heroes surrounded by walls representing the branches of the U.S. Department of Defense (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and the U.S. Public Health Service), first responders (law enforcement, firefighters and emergency medical services) and healthcare workers. Also included in the memorial is a covered amphitheater that will be used for educational and community events.

The amphitheater makes the memorial a living memorial, according to Hopper and Eggerding. “The amphitheater will allow for ceremonies and educational field trips to be held,” Hopper said. “This is not just about honoring those in the past. It’s a living memorial to honor past, present and future. We can’t forget to educate our future generations about the sacrifices made to preserve our liberty. When you put something in stone, it impacts future generations.”

Eggerding added, “I envision schools having field trips to the memorial. The kids will sit in the amphitheater and listen to lectures about heroes and how they came about. It will promote patriotism. It’s not just a memorial. It’s an educational tool that explains how these heroes make our country great. It’s not only a place to contemplate, but also to educate.”

The second phase of the project is now underway with a fundraising campaign to build the memorial – the goal of which is $2.5 million. Those interested in donating to the memorial can find more information at www.AZHeroesMemorial.org.

“Nothing like this, honoring all of these hero groups, exists in the state of Arizona,” said Hopper. “People are so enthusiastic and have such passion for this project. It’s amazing. I feel truly honored to be chosen to get it to the finish line.”  

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