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City officials talk potential improvements to Rifle Veterans’ Memorial

Looking west from the stones bearing the names of veterans in 2014.
Citizen Telegram/File

The city of Rifle rekindled discussions over what to do with the unfinished veterans memorial at Deerfield Park.

Rifle City Council and officials spent time during a March 16 workshop questioning whether they’ll move ahead with putting $24,000 toward memorial improvements.

In early 2021, the city budgeted $24,000 with the aim of pursuing one of three options:



• Make improvements to the memorial at Deerfield Park

• Make improvements to the memorial at Deerfield Park and build an additional memorial elsewhere in Rifle



• Do not make improvements to the memorial at Deerfield Park but build a new memorial elsewhere in Rifle

Rifle Mayor Ed Green showed support for the city potentially building elsewhere — preferably closer to downtown, he said — saying, “I don’t like the existing memorial.”

“I want something we can be proud of,” he said.

The original project was spearheaded by longtime Rifle resident John Scalzo, who raised enough funds to have the memorial first dedicated by 2009.

Parks and Recreation Manager Tom Whitmore said much of the original $50,000 worth of materials and labor to build the memorial, currently complete with decorative artillery cannons and giant stones listing military veterans, was donated by Kuersten Construction.

Since then, according to city documents, local veterans groups — like American Legion Kelly-Hansen Post 78 — have monitored the memorial while the city’s parks and recreation department takes care of landscaping and electrical needs.

But throughout the years, city leaders have questioned the validity of the servicemembers listed on the memorial’s stones, wondering if they actually served in the military.

Rifle City Council member Joe Carpenter and Green agreed that some of the people listed on the current memorial “aren’t veterans” while some Garfield County veterans that should be listed on there aren’t.

“I don’t like the idea of stolen valor,” Green said. “I don’t like the idea of not being able to correct it.”

Rifle City Council Member Clint Hostettler expressed more support for the using the budgeted $24,000 to make improvements at the existing memorial.

Hostettler pointed out that whenever baseball and softball players play at the nearby fields, they all direct their attention toward the memorial during the singing of the national anthem or the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance.

“I know it’s not maybe as nice as you want it to be, but I don’t like the argument that it’s in the wrong spot,” he said. “It’s right off the highway.”

Council member Alicia Gresley agreed about the current location.

“From a safety perspective, too, I think that fits,” she said.

Rifle Public Works Director Brian Prunty offered to act as a liaison between the city and local American Legion post to see which options moving forward are best for the memorial.

“I’m not going,” Green said.

Green said Rep. Lauren Boebert has already shown support for endorsing grant applications toward Rifle memorial improvements.

“She also said that if we want an airplane hovering over it, she can get one for us,” he said.

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@citizentelegram.com.


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