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FORT DUCHESNE, Uintah County — Members of the Ute Indian Tribe have a proud tradition of fighting for this land.
So it's only fitting the tribe would build its own memorial to pay tribute to the Ute men and women who have worn the nation's uniform.
"This is our homeland," Ute tribal leader and Army National Guard veteran Ron Wopsock said Thursday during a dedication ceremony for the memorial.
"It belongs to us, and we're going to do everything we can to protect it," said Wopsock, who helped lead the effort to make the project a reality.
Vietnam veteran Adelbert Tavashutz was also part of that effort and said the construction of the memorial has "been a long time coming."
"This is a very special place for veterans, their families and whoever it may be to come and just reflect on their relationships with neighbors, friends, brothers, sisters," Tavashutz said.
Robert Lucero, director of veterans affairs for the tribe, served three tours of duty in Iraq. He was part of the team behind the memorial and said its primary purpose is to serve as a place where veterans can come to reflect.
"It's for them to come in and think (about their service)," Lucero said. "And it's still going to be added on. It's not finished yet."
The memorial sits to the south of U.S. 40 in Fort Duchesne on the site of the former Bottle Hollow Resort. It is laid out in a circular fashion, in keeping with Ute custom, and includes pathways that represent the compass points.
This is a very special place for veterans, their families and whoever it may be to come and just reflect on their relationships with neighbors, friends, brothers, sisters.
"It shows that veterans served all over," Lucero said, "not just in one place."
The centerpiece of the memorial features five stone towers that rise up to a cauldron. Plaques bearing the names of Ute tribal members who served in the armed forces still have to be affixed to the towers, and Lucero said there are plans for statues around the edge of the site that will represent those who served in times of war and in times of peace.
At the main entrance of the memorial park, the names of the six Ute tribal members killed in action will be placed around the base of a soldier's cross that is already erected.
The cauldron at the center of the memorial will be lit whenever a Ute veteran dies, or to mark the observance of holidays like Veterans Day, Lucero said.
The site isn't intended only as a place for those who have served. It is also meant to inspire and educate the young.
"Bring your kids here," Ute Tribe Chairman Gordon Howell said during the dedication. "Let them know what this is for — all the wars, the conflicts that our veterans fought in for us — so that their memories and what they've done for us is not forgotten."