volunteers bending over to light candles in luminarias
Volunteers race against the sunset to light more than 6, 200 glass luminaria as the Colorado Freedom Memorial "light their way home' event gets underway on Thursday, Nov. 9 in Aurora. Credit: Deborah Grigsby


Nov. 10-11
Luminaria lighting, 5-8 p.m.

16-minute film ongoing until 8 p.m.

No charge

Colorado Freedom Memorial
Springhill Community Park
756 Telluride St.
Aurora, Colorado

Google map: https://maps.app.goo.gl/UyabfemracVBkPAJ8
Phone: 303-248-3990

Dress warm.
Paved walkways and wheelchair accessible.

Thousands of twinkling luminaria dot the well-manicured grounds of Springhill Community Park in Aurora, each a tiny tribute to a Colorado service member who gave their life for their county. 

To honor those sacrifices, the Colorado Freedom Memorial Foundation will again host its ‘Light their way home’ event honoring the 6,218 Coloradans killed in action since statehood in 1876. 

Rick Crandall, executive director of the Colorado Freedom Memorial Foundation, said 2023 marks the event’s 8th year. “In that time our luminaria event has become a family tradition for many who volunteer to light and/or turn off the lights each night, or simply come to honor our fallen as we head into the holiday season,” he said. “ So much of what we have to be grateful for is because of their sacrifice.”

The three-day event opened Thursday evening with a small ceremony and the uncrating of a steel relic from the USS Arizona, which arrived from Hawaii this summer. The ship was hit by aerial bombs, exploded and sank in Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II. It now has a permanent home at the memorial.

“There’s a lot of symbolism out here,” Crandall said. “Everything you see here has some symbolism to it. The steel relic to us, the members of the military, is important because it embodies the Coloradans that are still buried aboard Arizona, who still lie at rest at Pearl Harbor.”


Candles were placed around the relic’s crate and lit — one for each of the 32 named Coloradans who remain aboard the ship.

“While some have made the ultimate sacrifice, sadly every member of our military sacrifices time – time with those they love watching their children grow, time being there when their partner needs them, time when they miss their parents as they age, time spent enjoying the company of friends, Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera said. “And time is something that can never be returned. So, I believe the best way to honor veterans this weekend is to pause—and be grateful for our time with our loved ones.”

In addition to the nightly lighting of the luminarias, the memorial will also present a 16-minute video, which will be projected onto the wall of a neighboring warehouse building located just to the east of the site. 

Crandall said the film includes scenes from all of the wars since statehood and some of the faces of those killed in action. The soundtrack is by local composer Andy Wolfe and the Denver Brass performed the music in the recording. 

Mary Stilke, who visited the memorial from New Mexico, said she was deeply moved by the display.

“To see so many lights and knowing that each one represents a life that is gone is sobering,” she said.

The event runs through Nov. 11, from 5-8 p.m., and is free of charge.

Native Oklahoman Deborah Grigsby is a writer and photographer passionate about local journalism. After an eight-year break to play with airplanes, she returned to Colorado Community Media as a reporter...

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