On Memorial Day, at long last, we dedicated the Honor Bell. In a ceremony at Fort Logan National Cemetery, the bell was tolled for the first time where it will serve to honor the service and sacrifice of our veterans. Read more here.Read More
Artifacts from deceased #veterans are headed from Colorado to Ohio to become part of the Honor Bell! This video shows members of the Bell Honor Guard and the Colorado Patriot Guard Riders performing a dignified transfer of the artifacts, which will be escorted through Colorado to Kansas by the CO PGR.
The Honor Bell team left this morning, from the Colorado Freedom Memorial, with members of the Colorado Chapter of the Patriot Guard Riders and Rolling Thunder CO 1 providing an escort. Stay tuned for more updates from the Birth of the Bell Tour.
Jim Wickham served four years in the Navy beginning in 1958, and another 22 years in the Coast Guard. He was awarded several good conduct medals and a Bronze Star. In the Coast Guard Wickham specialized in communications as a Radioman, spending time in Vietnam on gun ships going up the small rivers that were too small for Naval vessels. He retired in 1982 as Chief, E7.
After service, Jim moved to Colorado to be a long haul trucker and be near his younger sister. He died in 2003.
Wickham's family donated his Coast Guard Cap Device for inclusion in the metal that was used to cast The Honor Bell.
John F. Toth was born in Allentown Pennsylvania. In 1949, after graduating high school, he enlisted in the Army, doing his basic training in the Heavy Mortar Company at Fort Lewis Washington. Toth was due for discharge in August 1950 but when the Korean War started in June 1950, President Truman ordered all enlistments be extended. He was deployed to Korea, a member of the 2nd Infantry Division, 38th Infantry Regiment, 1st Battalion, D company, Private 1st Class.
On Thanksgiving night 1950, Toth was captured by the Chinese at Kunu-ri. He escaped one night in December, running through the snow without any shoes. After re-joining his company, they were ambushed at Pyongyang — suffering heavy losses — machine gunned and mortared from the hills, where he was wounded.
Returning to civilian life, John married Dorothy Ann Bobal, went back to school on the G.I. bill, while raising four children. Starting in the mail room at Western Electric he worked his way up the corporate ladder. His career spanned 30 years with the Bell System telecommunications company, retiring in 1989 while working as a respected liaison to the Federal Government. He never spoke much of his experiences during the Korean War, but found great friendship, community and purpose in the military organizations he later joined.
Toth's family donated his regimental and division insignia pins for inclusion in the metal that was cast into The Honor Bell.
Martin L. Tanne signed up for the Merchant Marine Radio Operator's School to train and serve aboard ships shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Halfway through the course, however, he decided to enlist in the Army. He completed infantry training in 1943, and was part of the 34th Infantry Division, known as the North African Invasion Force. Tanne served during four campaigns, earning the rank of Sergeant, and was awarded the Rife Sharpshooter award, Combat Infantryman Badge, Purple Heart, two Bronze Stars, the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, the Croix de Guerre, the World War II Victory Medal, and the Army Good Conduct Medal.
Following his military service, he worked as a sales representative in New York for Armour and Company, eventually moving to Arvada, Colorado where he started Martin Meat Company. He went on to also serve as a commissary manager and consultant. He died in 2016.
Tanne's family has donated his Purple Heart medal for inclusion with the metal that was cast into The Honor Bell.
George Sakato was born in 1921, growing up in California. His family, concerned they would be interned by the government, moved to Arizona. Sakato joined the US Army in March 1944. He volunteered to be part of the all-Nisei 442nd Regimental Combat Team and was assigned to 3rd platoon, Company E, 2nd Battalion. The 442nd Regiment was the most decorated unit for its size and length of service in the history of American warfare. Twenty-one of its members were awarded Medals of Honor.
Private George T. Sakato distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in action on October 29th 1944, on hill 617 in the vicinity of Biffontaine, France. After his platoon had virtually destroyed two enemy defense lines, during which he personally killed five enemy soldiers and captured four, his unit was pinned down by heavy enemy fire. Disregarding the enemy fire, Sakato made a one-man rush that encouraged his platoon to charge and destroy the enemy strongpoint. While his platoon was reorganizing, he proved to be the inspiration of his squad in halting a counter-attack on the left flank during which his squad leader was killed. Taking charge of the squad, he continued his relentless tactics, using an enemy rifle and P-38 pistol to stop an organized enemy attack. During this entire action, he killed 12 and wounded two, personally captured four and assisted his platoon in taking 34 prisoners. By continuously ignoring enemy fire, and by his gallant courage and fighting spirit, he turned impending defeat into victory and helped his platoon complete its mission.
For the extraordinary heroism displayed by Sakato at Biffontaine, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.
In the 1990s, there was a review of US military service records of Americans of Asian descent who received the Distinguished Service Cross during World War II. Sakato's award was upgraded to the Medal of Honor. President Bill Clinton presented Sakato the Medal of Honor during a ceremony at the White House on June 21, 2000. He died on December 2, 2015 in Denver, Colorado, at the age of 94.
The Sakato family has donated his Medal of Honor Commemorative Coin, which was included in the metal used to cast The Honor Bell.
Chance Russell Phelps was a Private First Class — posthumously promoted to Lance Corporal — in the United States Marine Corps. He served with 2nd Platoon, Battery L, 3rd Battalion, 11th Marine Regiment(3/11), 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Phelps was killed in Iraq as the convoy he was escorting came under heavy fire. His story is the subject of the movie Taking Chance, which will be screened at the Forged From Honor Artifact Dedication Event on March 24th.
Phelps was born in Riverton, Wyoming, and moved to Colorado, where he graduated from Palisade High School in 2003. He was motivated to join the Marines by the events of September 11, 2001. After attending recruit training at MCRD San Diego, he attended artillery school at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He was finally assigned to 3/11, with which he deployed in February 2004.
On April 9, 2004 outside Ar Ramadi, Iraq, Phelps' unit was conducting convoy escort when they came under heavy small arms fire, including rocket-propelled grenades. Despite being wounded, he refused to be evacuated, and instead manned his M240 machine gun to cover the evacuation of the rest of his convoy. Upon withdrawal, was killed.
Phelps was buried in Dubois, Wyoming on April 17, 2004. His remains were escorted home by Lieutenant Colonel Michael Strobl, whose accounts of the escort were recorded in an article he wrote entitled "Taking Chance". Phelps was officially awarded a posthumous promotion to Lance Corporal.
Phelps' family has donated his metal Lance Corporal insignia, Enlisted Dress Insignia, and his Rife Expert Marksmanship badge for inclusion in the metal used to cast The Honor Bell.
Kenneth C. Melcher enlisted in the US Air Force in 1955. He retired at Lowry Air Force Base in 1978 as a Chief Master Sergeant. Ken then worked as an Air Force civilian employee until 1994. After retirement, Melcher volunteered for numerous veterans' organizations.
Melcher's family has donated a button from his Air Force uniform to be included in the metal that was cast into The Honor Bell.
Richard Hawkins was born 25 May, 1925 in Chicago, Illinois. He always enjoyed sports and took up boxing at a young age. He joined the Army Air Corps in 1943, and served as a machine gunner during World War II; towards the end of the war he assisted in the liberation of concentration camps. He met Doris Letourneau, who was a sergeant in the Army, while he was a corporal, in Germany, marrying in Erding, Germany 4 months later.
Hawkins was honorably discharged from the Army in 1946 and jumped at the chance to join the Air Force shortly thereafter. Richard was stationed throughout the world during his tenure in the Air Force: from Patrick AFB in Florida, to Itami and Kadina AFB in Japan. He was stationed in Phan Rang for a year during the Vietnam War. He and his family moved to Colorado in 1975 upon his retirement.
He was always very athletic and won 4 USAF Golden Glove boxing Championships under the fighting name "the Irish Kid". He was inducted into the Colorado Umpires Hall of Fame. He completed his Bachelor of Arts Degree at Metropolitan State College in 1981.
Richard's family has donated his American Campaign Medal from World War II, Korean Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, and a pair of Air Force cufflinks for inclusion in the metal that was cast into The Honor Bell.
Chris was born on September 24, 1982 in Boston, Massachusetts, living for a time in Ohio and moving to Littleton, Colorado in 1992. Chris graduated from ThunderRidge High School in 2001.
Falkel enlisted in the Army in fall of 2001. After basic training, he attended Airborne School at Fort Benning and went on to train in the areas of Special Operations and Special Forces. He was assigned to Operational Detachment, Alpha 316, Company A, 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) as a weapons sergeant (18B), and was promoted to staff sergeant in 2004.
Chris was deployed twice to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He was killed in action there on August 8, 2005. He was later buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Julian Dracon was born in 1933. After graduating from high school in Billings, Montana, he enlisted in the Navy in 1950. Over the duration of his military career, he travelled the world, living in Hawaii and Japan. While in the Navy he obtained a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Colorado in 1975.
Early in Julian's naval career, he met his future wife, Betty. After a three-year, long-distance courtship, Julian and Betty were married in 1955. They raised three children while stationed at numerous posts, eventually settling in the Denver area. After 26 years of service, Dracon retired with the rank of Master Chief, Lithographer. He stayed active in veterans' organizations, and founded the Navy Lithographers Association. He also created Jiffy Reproduction and Duplicating, operating it for 42 years.
Dracon's family donated his Navy Commendation Medal for inclusion into the metal that was used in casting the Honor Bell.
David Bucknam grew up in the Denver area, and had a passion for the outdoors which led him to backpack, climb, and explore every corner of Colorado’s wilderness. He met his future wife, Susan, as a member of the Colorado Mountain Club Juniors, when they were both teenagers.
David served in the US Army Reserve with the 224th Engineering Battalion at Rocky Mountain Arsenal, while completing his studies at the University of Colorado, from 1969 until 1976. He taught junior high history and geography for several years, worked for the Colorado Land Use Commission, and then for over 24 years with the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. He retired as Director of the Office of Active and Inactive Mines. Under Dave’s leadership, Colorado’s Inactive Mine Reclamation Program and the Colorado Mine Safety and Training program were nationally recognized.
Bucknam's family donated his Sharpshooter badge with Rifle bar for inclusion in the metal used to cast The Honor Bell.
Charles E. Adams Jr. was born in New Orleans, Lousiana on September 22, 1919. He joined the Army in 1942 and transferred to the Air Corps at Santa Ana, California. After Primary flight school and Twin Engine Advance, he graduated in the class of 43-G. He flew P-38s at Muroc and at Lomita Flight Strip, both in California prior to a 21 day troop ship ride to North Africa. After a short stay in the Fighter Training Command at Constantine, Algeria, he was transferred to the 82nd Fighter Group, 95th Fighter Squadron at Foggia, Italy in January 1944.
During his tour he was temporarily assigned to the Royal Air Force Gunnery School at Ballah, Egypt flying Spitfires and Hurricanes. Upon return to Foggia he flew bomber escort, strafing, dive-bombing, and fighter sweeps to complete fifty missions. He was credited with aerial destruction of six enemy aircraft and joined the ranks of the fighter aces. His P-38, named the Judith Ann after his infant daughter that he had not yet seen, was hit by enemy fire during one battle, causing him to have to fly and land on one engine. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with 12 clusters. His group was awarded three Presidential Unit Citations.
Returning to the States, Adams toured with a Bond Drive group before serving as basic instrument and flight instructor at Minter Field, California. After discharge from the service in August 1945, he completed studies and graduated as a Petroleum Refining Engineer at the Colorado School of Mines in May 1948. He joined Chevron Corporation and after 35 years of service in Colorado, Louisiana, Australia, Canada and Texas, he and his wife Dorothy, retired to Perry Park, Colorado.
Adams' family donated his World War II-era Pilot wings for inclusion into the Honor Bell.
Robert R. Abbott Jr was born on August 5, 1941 in Bloomsburg, PA. He enlisted in the Coast Guard in September of 1962. One of his tours was in Anchorage, Alaska, and was on duty as a radioman when the earthquake of March 27, 1964 hit. He spent time in St. Louis, Missouri doing duty on the Mississippi River. After four years in active duty he joined the Reserves. He married in December of 1966 and moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota. His assignment was along the Mississippi River in St. Paul, Minnesota.
With the GI Bill he finished his college degree and moved to Denver, Colorado, and joined the unit there. They worked Green River in Wyoming and Chatfield Reservoir in Denver. He retired on January 1, 2000 as a Chief Warrant Officer W-4 after 37 years of service. Two week duty in the summers were spent in various ports on the East and West Coast. He loved the game of golf and you would find him on the courses most every weekend even in the winter in Denver. He volunteered for many of the activities his daughters participated in. He passed away February 20, 2006 and was laid to rest at Fort Logan National Cemetery. He is survived by his wife, Nancy, two daughters/son-in-laws, and five grandchildren.
Robert's family donated a belt buckle from his Coast Guard uniform and a dog tag. Both were included in the metal used to cast The Honor Bell.
Do you have a family member who served in the military? Do you have a Grandfather who served in WWII, an uncle who was in Korea, a mom or dad who served during Vietnam? Maybe your brother was in the the War on Terror, or you had a friend that was never in a conflict, but served their country honorably as a member of our armed services?
The legacy of Colorado’s military heritage will live on in the Honor Bell. When the Bell is cast, we will place military badges, medals, and dog tags from every branch of service into the molten bronze, making the Bell truly “forged from honor.” We have secured the donation of the first two artifacts to be cast into the Honor Bell: a Special Forces Crest and Combat Infantryman's Badge from an Operation Enduring Freedom soldier.
We are asking for your help in locating appropriate artifacts for inclusion into the Honor Bell. The artifacts should represent all branches of our nation’s military and come from deceased Colorado, Wyoming, or Utah service members. We would be honored to include items from any service member, from any conflict, in the Honor Bell. If you have an artifact to donate, please fill out this short form and we will contact you. Thanks for helping to make the Honor Bell reflect our nation's pride in its heroes.
As you have read here, the Honor Bell will be forged with a thousand pounds of brass. What makes it special, however, are the artifacts from Colorado's deceased service members that will be forged into it along with the molten metal. The first two artifacts donated for use in the Honor Bell are the Special Forces Crest and Combat Infantryman's Badge from Army Staff Sergeant Chris Falkel. In 2005, Falkel was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan. His father, Jeff Falkel, tells the story of Chris and the artifacts here.
Artifacts like Chris's are what will truly make this bell "Forged From Honor". If you have an artifact that you'd like to donate for inclusion into the Honor Bell, learn more here.
Earlier this month, Honor Bell Foundation staff traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio, to sign a contract with Verdin Company to commission the casting of our first Honor Bell. Foundation Executive Director Lou Olivera and Verdin Company President Jim Verdin did the honors, signing the contract documents in front of the massive furnace that will pour the thousand pounds of bronze—including the artifacts from Colorado’s veterans—into the bell’s mold.
“Signing this contract with Verdin brings us one step closer to realizing our vision for the Honor Bell,” said Olivera. “It shows our commitment to honor Colorado’s veterans and to those who are supporting us in this mission.” The Honor Bell will be cast at Verdin’s foundry along the Ohio River in May 2016. Verdin has been manufacturing bells in America for over 170 years and is the only foundry in the country that can cast a bell as large as the 1,000-pound Honor Bell.
The next steps in fabrication are completing the bell design, acquiring donated artifacts from the families of deceased Colorado veterans, finalizing the schedule for the artifacts’ transport to Verdin, the casting and finishing of the bell, and tour of the finished Bell back to Colorado for its dedication on Memorial Day.